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University of San Francisco | School of Nursing and Health Professions: Shaping the Future of Nursing Education with Excellence and Innovation


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The healthcare industry has experienced significant changes in the last few decades, including ongoing advancements in health-related technology. Along with these changes, there has been increased recognition of the structural and social determinants of health and improved awareness of health inequities. As a result, nursing education must adapt to ensure that learners are well-prepared for the environments in which they will work.

The recent pandemic has highlighted the need for well-trained nurses who can tackle large healthcare challenges. This is particularly evident as there has been an increase in the number of nurses seeking graduate education to make more significant changes in healthcare systems. Moreover, health is developed throughout one’s lifespan and across a continuum. Therefore, nursing education must ensure that new nurses have the competency to provide care at different times and spaces.

Nursing education is changing its focus from merely delivering healthcare to developing health and eliminating health inequities. It recognizes that nurses need to be equipped with the necessary skills to provide care tailored to the unique needs of different individuals and communities.

The University of San Francisco’s SONHP (School of Nursing and Health Professions) is at the forefront of this ongoing revolution in health-related technology. This institution has a profound understanding of health’s structural and social determinants and is committed to addressing health inequities. The university is dedicated to equipping nursing learners with the skills they need to thrive in today’s evolving healthcare landscape.

Celebrating 70 Years of Transformative Contributions to the Community

The University of San Francisco’s School of Nursing and Health Professions has a rich history and a compelling mission that resonates with its impact on the education sector and society at large. For over 70 years, we have been at the forefront of transformative approaches and best practices to develop and promote health and well-being. With a steadfast commitment to eliminating health inequities locally and globally while preserving human dignity, the SONHP has become a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive change.

The roots of the USF SONHP can be traced back to 1831, when the Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. The Sisters of Mercy dedicated themselves to serving the poor and needy residents of their city. Unlike other religious orders at the time, they pursued a mission that extended beyond the walls of a cloister, reaching out to work broadly throughout the city, providing aid to the hungry and caring for the sick.

In 1854, the Sisters of Mercy brought their mission to provide healthcare and education to San Francisco. It was in this vibrant city that the nursing program at the University of San Francisco was established in 1948 in collaboration with the Sisters of Mercy. The program was designed to allow registered nurses from nearby St. Mary’s Hospital to earn their baccalaureate degrees. Recognizing the need for independent growth, the nursing program became an autonomous department at the University of San Francisco in 1954.

SONHP achieved a significant milestone in 1958 when it became the first private nursing program in California to receive accreditation from the National League for Nursing. This accreditation has been maintained continuously for over 50 years, serving as a testament to the school’s unwavering commitment to excellence. Furthermore, the baccalaureate degree program in nursing, the master’s degree program in nursing, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the USF SONHP have received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, highlighting the school’s dedication to upholding rigorous academic standards.

SONHP’s impact extends beyond the realm of education. It is approved by the California State Board of Registered Nursing, and its graduates are eligible to receive the California Public Health Nursing Certificate. This recognition underscores the program’s emphasis on producing healthcare professionals who are not only competent but also compassionate and committed to equal access to healthcare for all communities.

Throughout its remarkable journey, SONHP has remained deeply rooted in the Jesuit academic tradition. Guided by a strong foundation in liberal arts and sciences combined with specialized knowledge in the field, the school strives to advance the preparation of health professionals. Moreover, justice, service, and academic excellence are the cornerstones of SONHP’s philosophy. Its graduates are equipped to make a difference, using their hearts, minds, and souls to improve the health of all populations.

Cura Personalis: Transforming Healthcare through Evidence-Based Practice

SONHP has continuously evolved to meet the changing demands in the healthcare and nursing fields. This institution stands apart from others due to its unique program offerings and commitment to community work in the Bay Area. Since its inception, the nursing school has expanded its program offerings and student body, solidifying its presence in the field.

In 1984, the Master of Science in Nursing degree was introduced, followed by the addition of the Clinical Nurse Leader certification to its master’s programs in 2005. Recognizing the need for highly skilled nursing professionals, the school became the first institution in California to offer the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in 2007, catering to working nurses seeking advanced education.

To address broader health concerns, SONHP added the Master of Public Health program in 2011 and established the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD in Clinical Psychology) degree program in 2013. Keeping up with the advancements in healthcare technology, the Master of Health Informatics (MS in Digital Health Informatics) program was launched in 2016.

What sets these programs apart is the core value of “Cura Personalis”— care for the whole person — which stems from the institution’s Jesuit education background. This value is deeply integrated into the curriculum, as students are encouraged to view healthcare through a systems lens, considering the impact of health disparities on individual care at all levels.

The graduate programs offered by SONHP place a strong emphasis on public health topics, equipping students with knowledge of population health. The faculty members actively engage in policy work within the Bay Area and California, bringing their expertise back to the coursework and sharing real-world insights with students.

Furthermore, all of the programs, including those in the health professions, emphasize the integration of practice, academia, and research into students’ everyday work and lives. This practical approach enables students to apply their learning directly to their professional endeavors.

Empowering Change-Makers

SONHP offers a range of multidisciplinary programs that allow students to learn from expert faculty across multiple fields. This approach reflects the reality of the professional environment and prepares students to succeed in a range of healthcare settings. Students emerge as service-oriented, culturally sensitive professionals ready to make a difference in people’s lives and communities.

At SONHP, students are encouraged to harness their hearts, passion, minds, commitment, and souls to forge meaningful connections and drive positive change within communities. With a renewed commitment to its vision, the institution welcomes students with unwavering passion, preparing them to be part of a workforce that champions innovative solutions to health inequities and transforms healthcare through evidence-informed approaches. This journey entails a commitment to critical thinking, engaging in open discussions, and fostering a culture of inquiry.

The school empowers students to challenge the status quo, instilling in them the courage to question, innovate, and effect change. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based practices, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to apply research findings to their projects and daily practice. To maximize learning opportunities, students are encouraged to embrace both classroom and extracurricular activities, overcome challenges with determination, and seek support whenever necessary.

Furthermore, USF SONHP places the highest priority on student learning outcomes, ensuring that graduates are equipped with the knowledge and expertise needed to provide exceptional care while prioritizing the safety and well-being of both individuals and communities. As new students embark on their educational journey, they join a distinguished group of over 5,000 graduates who have leveraged their knowledge of the health professions to deliver the highest quality care worldwide.

Inside the Vibrant Campus Life at USF SONHP

USF SONHP offers a vibrant campus life that supports the holistic development of its students. The core campus, located in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park, boasts state-of-the-art simulation labs where undergraduate and graduate students receive hands-on training under the guidance of clinical faculty. These labs provide an immersive learning experience, equipping students with essential skills early in their programs.

The university’s presence in the Bay Area is a tremendous advantage, as it offers students a wealth of clinical partners and diverse healthcare settings to gain valuable experience. In addition to the San Francisco campus, there are campuses in Sacramento and Orange County, enabling students in those areas to benefit from the expertise of the core faculty and engage with clinical sites in their respective regions.

One noteworthy initiative that showcases the commitment to social change and public health improvement is the Annual Central Valley NP Clinical Immersion. This program, in collaboration with Save the Children and the Kings Canyon Unified School District, addresses the pressing health needs of the community by providing at least 800 physicals each year. This comprehensive partnership tackles various critical health issues, including substance use disorder in pregnancy, prenatal care, and childhood obesity, contributing to positive social change and community well-being.

USF: Where Every Voice Matters, Every Identity Counts

Diversity and inclusion are paramount at USF, creating a rich and vibrant community that welcomes individuals from all walks of life. U.S. News & World Report has recognized USF as the No. 2 University in the nation for diversity. Emphasizing the importance of cultural understanding, every undergraduate student at USF engages in the study of cultural diversity as a required core class.

USF takes pride in its diverse student body, which includes individuals from around the globe. International students have found USF to be an exceptional environment for their educational pursuits, fostering growth, learning, and a sense of belonging.

To support the holistic development of international students and scholars, the university’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) actively promote a global perspective within the USF community. This is achieved through educational initiatives and programmatic outreach, coupled with comprehensive support services and immigration advice.

Regardless of one’s creed, culture, color, country, identity, or orientation, USF warmly embraces and values every individual. The university recognizes the essential contributions that students, faculty, staff, and alumni make to its community. With representation from all 50 states and over 100 countries, encompassing more than 25 faith traditions, and speaking 49 languages, USF celebrates the diversity that enriches its campus and fosters an inclusive atmosphere that honors and respects every person.

Dr. Angela Banks: Empowering Underrepresented Students to Succeed

Dr. Angela Banks, a distinguished faculty member at USF, has been recognized with “The 2023 Mentor of the Year Award” for her exceptional commitment to guiding and supporting students. The award honors individuals who go above and beyond in helping students:

  • Identify their academic goals.
  • Establish relationships between their curricular and co-curricular activities.
  • Develop the expertise, skills, and values that support academic and personal achievement.
  • Discern how their USF experience will assist them in forming a more humane and just world.

Dr. Banks has been instrumental in providing scholarships and mentorship to undergraduate nursing students who have historically been underrepresented in the nursing profession. Her tireless efforts have enabled students from diverse backgrounds, including Black/African American, Latinx, Native American, Alaskan and Hawaiian Native, Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese students, to complete their bachelor’s degree in nursing and pursue successful careers in healthcare.

Under Dr. Banks’ guidance, the SONHP at USF has created two scholarship programs that support students from traditionally underrepresented communities in higher education. These programs are designed to help students complete their bachelor’s degree in nursing and prepare them to work in medically underserved communities, rural settings, or primary care settings after graduation.

About the Dean: Eileen Fry-Bowers

Dean Eileen Fry-Bowers, a distinguished professional with over 20 years of experience in clinical nursing, has brought her exceptional expertise and leadership to the USF School of Nursing and Health Professions since joining in 2022. Her remarkable background encompasses clinical nursing practice, leadership roles, and academic positions in nursing, public health, and medicine, as well as service in the esteemed United States Navy Nurse Corps. Notably, she has a comprehensive education in law and health policy, further enhancing her multifaceted approach to nursing.

As a scholar, Eileen has made significant contributions to the field, with a primary focus on policy analysis and commentary related to the care of vulnerable pediatric populations, particularly underserved children and youth with special health care needs. Her dedication to improving the lives of these individuals underscores her commitment to making a difference in the healthcare landscape.

Beyond academia, Eileen has played pivotal roles in managing local, regional, and national community-based public health initiatives. Additionally, she has served on the board of directors for several notable not-for-profit organizations and a county commission, demonstrating her engagement and impact beyond the confines of the university.

While accomplishing all this, Eileen also embraces her personal life, cherishing her roles as a wife, mother, sibling, and avid fan of football and lacrosse. As a recent transplant to San Francisco, she is adjusting to the unique climate, offering a friendly reminder to everyone to be prepared for the city’s characteristic fog and varying summer weather by wearing layers.

In addressing students interested in nursing or healthcare, Eileen passionately conveys the core belief that “Nursing is Essential.” Anchored in the Jesuit tradition, the USF School of Nursing and Health Professions takes pride in implementing the AACN Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education, fostering a curriculum that aligns with their transformative vision.

“We are pursuing health as a human right. We are changing the world’s health through our engagement with each student, each patient, each project, each internship, each capstone, each dissertation, and each research study. We are agents of change!” asserts Dean Eileen Fry-Bowers.



ALSO READ:  “Nursing Insights, 2023”

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