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The Nurse as Health Policy Specialist

The health policy program, established in 2002, was the first health policy specialty program for nurses in the US. This cross-disciplinary program prepares students to assess the policy dimensions of issues in the clinical practice, teaching, and research environments within which they work and to translate between practice and policy worlds.

Public policies are the public actions taken by policy makers at the federal, state and local levels. These actions can include budgetary changes, legislative actions, regulatory initiatives, and other legal and advocacy work. Public policy work involves the process of public discourse, and requires a variety of skills and knowledge. Before nurses can advocate effectively  for public policy change, they need to understand the policy and politics of health and health care, including the financial incentives that influence multiple organizations.

The curriculum is designed to provide academic preparation in health policy. It builds upon content from multiple disciplines, as policy is an arena in which multiple disciplines participate. It draws out policy lessons that extend beyond the US system to include global health policy issues. In addition to attending courses with the regular faculty of the program, students have  opportunities to attend small seminars with guest faculty who are conducting innovative policy research or leading real-world policy initiatives. Most class sizes are small, facilitating dialogue with faculty and practice of policy skills. In addition, there are opportunities to become involved in world-class policy research. The UCSF School of Nursing is consistently among the top institutions in the country for NIH research funding, and faculty regularly involve students in their research and teaching.

This innovative program is housed in the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Nursing. The program involves faculty from other departments in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine as well as from several research institutes and centers at UCSF.

These include the Center on Social Disparities and Health, the Institute for Health and Aging, the Phillip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Center for Research and Innovation in Patient Care, the Center for the Health Professions, and the Center for Tobacco Research and Education.