Physiological Nursing

The Department of Physiological Nursing prepares students from culturally diverse backgrounds to assume leadership roles in nursing clinical practice, teaching, research, and community service by advancing knowledge and clinical excellence and disseminating it into practice and policy. Faculty members in this department are engaged in cutting-edge research that is improving the quality of care of persons with acute and chronic conditions.

Creative intervention studies are being done with patients with cardiovascular disease, cancer, renal failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These studies are focused on testing nursing interventions that decrease symptoms, improve functional status and improve the quality of life of patients with these chronic conditions.

In addition, faculty members are engaged in research activities that focus on the management of specific symptoms or clinical problems, including pain, fatigue, dyspnea and wound healing. Several faculty members in the department utilize animal models to investigate important questions that affect the care of patients.

Opportunities abound for students to work with faculty members to conduct significant research studies that will improve the scientific basis of nursing practice and improve the care of patients with acute and chronic conditions in whatever setting patients receive their care.

Access the organizational chart for Physiological Nursing.






Cardiovascular, Acute Care, Critical Care, Gerontology and Oncology are areas of specialization and instruction/teaching.

Specialty Areas

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG ACNP)

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (AG ACNP) help assess and manage acutely ill patients within the inpatient/hospital setting and across hospital-to-clinic settings, including the emergency department, intensive care unit, specialty labs, acute and sub-acute care wards, specialty clinics, or any combination of the above. The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Oncology (AG ACNP-Oncology) prepares the graduate for optional focus on advanced practice level for adults and older adults with cancer.

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AG CNS)

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialists (AG CNS) care for the complex health-care needs of adults and seniors in clinical practice settings. Limited MEPN and Post-Masters options may be available.

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist - Critical Care/Trauma (AGCNS-CCT)

Because inpatient care focuses increasingly on treating the sickest of the sick, the need for advanced practice nurses to provide and coordinate care in emergency departments, trauma, critical care, and intensive care units has never been greater.

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist - Oncology (AGCNS-ONC)

For adults with cancer, advanced practice clinical nurse specialists play critical roles in prevention and detection, as well as in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of new ways of caring for oncology patients.

Doctoral education in this department focuses on the study of prevention, measurement, and treatment of physiological and bio-behavioral responses to health, illness/disease and aging. Psycho-physiological interrelationships and interventions also are studied. The focus may be on individuals, families or groups. Research spans all phases of the health/illness trajectory including people who are healthy, critically ill, living with a chronic illness, and those at the end of life. The faculty meet regularly to discuss their research proposals and to further collaboration among the faculty.

Examples of research programs are the following: testing of nursing interventions with patients with heart disease and their families during acute and chronic phases of illness; cardiac electrophysiology involving patients with cardiac arrhythmias or myocardial ischemia; innovative strategies to improve the efficacy of continuous ECG monitoring in hospital and pre-hospital settings; help-seeking delay in acute myocardial infarction and heart failure; patient education in heart failure; factors related to re-hospitalization in heart failure; the study of nutritional interventions in the presence of cardiovascular risk factors, i.e., hypercholesterolemia, hypertension in children and adults; study of cardiovascular risk factors with physiological and molecular biology/genetic measurements; nursing interventions to prevent or manage the side effects of cancer treatment and facilitate self-care practices of patients with cancer and their families. clinical and basic science investigations in pain management; end of life and palliative care; stigma in lung cancer; smoking cessation; management of symptoms in pediatric oncology patients; physical functioning in older adults with serious mental illness; quality of care and quality of life issues in institutions for elderly people (cross-cultural); caregiving, sense of control, hearing impairment; primary, secondary and tertiary prevention through nursing interventions to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors; testing interventions to improve sleep in older adults and people with chronic neurological diseases; quality measurement and benchmarking; exploring links between nurse staffing effectiveness and patient safety and outcomes; translating research into practice; innovation diffusion; and clinical process/performance improvement.

The Department houses the UCSF Center for Research & Innovation in Patient Care, the UCSF/John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, the Palliative Care Education programs, and coming soon, the Center for Physiological Research (CPR).

These centers, as school-wide assets, expand departmental research opportunities in translational research, outcomes-related measurement and multi-site methods, evidence-based practice capacity development and interdisciplinary research.

Clinical faculties in the Department of Physiological Nursing (DPN) maintain independent clinical practices in their specialty areas and several faculty members are able to precept students in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Lynda Mackin precepts AG CNS students in an outpatient clinic setting and also home visits. AG ACNP students may request to precept in a specialty rotation with Brigid Donovan on the Trauma Service at Zuckerberg San Francisco General, Dawn Troeger in the ICU at Eden Medical Center, or Cynthia Singh in the Clinical Decision Unit at Stanford University Medical Center. Many graduates from our specialty programs have found employment in acute and critical care clinical settings throughout the greater Bay Area. After gaining valuable experience many agree to precept students as their way of giving back to the school and community. We are proud that more than 75% of specialty preceptors are past graduates.

Pam Bellefeuille, RN, MS, ACNS-BC, CEN
Clinical Professor

Pam Bellefeuille has extensive clinical expertise in a variety of settings including Emergency, Intensive Care Nursing, and Medical-Surgical; moving from staff nurse to manager to director to clinical nurse specialist. Teaching nursing is her other passion! She started her academic teaching career in 1983 and is currently teaching Master's Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) courses—both theory and providing clinical instruction in the pre-licensure portion of the program.

Astrid Block, RN, MS, CNS
Assistant Clinical Professor

Astrid Block is a 2005 graduate of the Gerontological Nursing Clinical Nurse Specialist Program at UCSF and has been Volunteer Faculty in the School of Nursing since 2008.  In 2018 she was hired as Clinical Faculty for the Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Program.  She is a nurse expert in geriatric medicine, her clinical practice primarily focused on care of the frail and elderly patient and their families, incorporating comprehensive geriatric assessment including cognitive assessment, advance care planning and medication review. 

Rosalie Bravo, RN, MS, ACNP
Associate Clinical Professor

Rosalie Bravo joined the AG ACNP faculty in 2005 and is the Coordinator of the Department of Physiology’s Post Master’s AG ACNP and AG CNS programs. She maintains an active clinical practice in San Francisco providing Internal Medicine services for uninsured adults with acute and chronic illnesses. She previously worked at the UCSF Emergency Department as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner for more than 13 years.

Elizabeth Fox. RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, AG ACNP-BC
Assistant Clinical Professor

Elizabeth Fox is a 2017 graduate of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Program at UCSF.  In 2018 she was hired as Clinical Faculty for the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program.  Her advanced practice expertise is in Neurocritical Care and she maintains an active clinical practice as an NP in addition to collaboration on Neurocritical Care program development at Stanford Hospitals and Clinics.

Roxanne Garbez, RN, PhD, ACNP-BC, CNS
Clinical Professor

Roxanne Garbez joined the AG ACNP faculty in 1999 and has been Director of the AG ACNP Program since 2006. She completed her PhD at UCSF in 2008 with the research focus for her dissertation on emergency department triage with an emphasis on examining clinical decision making related to levels 2 and 3 within the 5-level Emergency Severity Index. For 17 years she maintained an active clinical practice as a nurse practitioner in a busy emergency department, and currently volunteers per diem as a nurse practitioner at a free clinic in San Francisco, providing Internal Medicine/Primary Care Services for uninsured adults with chronic and acute illness.

Lisa Guertin, RN, MS, ACNP
Associate Clinical Professor

Lisa Guertin joined the AG ACNP faculty in 2014. She worked as an RN in critical care settings from 2000 to 2010, then completed the AG ACNP program and has been working as an NP since 2010. She has an extensive clinical background in advanced heart failure and experience working with patients with complex conditions including heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support.

Katie Hettinger, RN, MSN
Assistant Clinical Professor 

Katie Hettinger joined UCSF School of Nursing as full time faculty in the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) in 2018. Katie’s clinical experience is varied, working primarily with cardiac patients on Step-down Units, but also has experience working in the ICU, Emergency, Medical, Surgical, and Behavioral Health units. Soon into her nursing career, Katie realized the passion she had teaching both patients and nursing students. Katie graduated with her MSN focusing in Nursing Education in 2014 after completing her educational practicum at UCSF with the MEPN students. She was then was hired as a clinical instructor in that program for several years before accepting the faculty position. Her courses include both didactic and clinical components.

Lynda Mackin, PhD, AG PCNP-BC, CCNS
Clinical Professor

Dr. Mackin completed a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree at California State University, Fresno and both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in nursing at UCSF. She has been faculty in the School of Nursing since 1997 and holds national certifications as both an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG PCNP-BC) and as an Adult Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS). She currently directs all of the Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Tracks and serves as the Coordinator for the Geriatrics Minor. She maintains an active community-based advanced nursing practice, specializing in care of frail older adults in their home or residential care facility.

Andrea Saito, RN, MS, ACNP-BC
Assistant Clinical Professor

Andrea Saito is a 2008 graduate of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program at UCSF and has been Volunteer faculty in the School of Nursing since 2014.  In 2018 she was hired as Clinical Faculty for the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program.  Her advanced practice expertise is in critical care and ICU and she maintains an active clinical practice as the Lead Nurse Practitioner in the ICU at VA Palo Alto Healthcare System.

Cynthia Singh, RN, MS, ACNP-BC
Assistant Clinical Professor

Cynthia Unger is a 2007 graduate of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program at UCSF and has been Volunteer faculty in the School of Nursing since 2011. In 2016 she was hired as Clinical Faculty for the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program. Her advanced practice expertise is in emergency and observation medicine. She maintains an active clinical practice as the Lead Nurse Practitioner in the Emergency Department and Clinical Decision Unit at Stanford Health Care. 

Dawn Troeger, RN, MS, ACNP
Assistant Clinical Professor

Dawn Troeger completed her MSN-Ed in 2010 and then graduated from the University of California, San Francisco Post Master’s ACNP program in 2012. She joined the AG ACNP as volunteer faculty in 2014 and advanced to Clinical Faculty in 2016. She has an extensive clinical background that includes managing patients in both pulmonary critical care and neurotrauma. She maintains an active clinical practice on the Pulmonary Critical Care service at Eden Medical Center, the regional neuroscience center for Sutter Health, where she is the Intensivist Program Coordinator, Lead Advance Practice Provider and currently conducts research in alcohol withdrawal and sepsis. 

Carol Viele, RN, MS, CNS
Associate Clinical Professor

Carol Viele has been Volunteer Faculty in the School of Nursing since 1982. In 2013 she joined the clinical faculty in the AG CNS Oncology program. Carol is an Oncology Clinical Specialist with a certification as an Oncology Certified Nurse. She continues her active oncology clinical practice in the community setting.