Preparing Nurses to Lead in Health Equity


September 2020/By Milenko Martinovich

The UCSF School of Nursing is leveraging innovative practices and technological advancements to prepare the next generation of nurse leaders to champion health equity.

Through its Master of Science degree program, the School is working to expand students’ understanding of health inequities, and train them to think critically in developing practical solutions to health disparities for vulnerable communities. 

“Many students never thought of themselves as advocates,” said Lisa Mihaly, assistant professor who is co-leading a new health equity course. “It’s important to identify an issue they really care about and collaborate with those in health care to make that change happen.” 

In addition, the school has launched a new Post-Master’s Certificate that will double the number of California psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in five years, especially in underserved communities where the shortage of providers is most critical.

Health Equity in the Curriculum

School leadership, faculty and students are collaborating to ensure students are receiving the most advanced content on health equity.   

In 2019, associate professor Kim Dau, working with a group of students, requested that the School’s Master’s Program Council (MPC) examine the socio-cultural graduation requirement. That requirement emphasized the concept of cultural humility, which focuses on speaking humbly and respectfully to those from different cultural backgrounds.

After launching a task force to examine recent studies and consult with faculty, students and an external expert, the MPC modernized the requirement to focus on Structural Competency, which encourages health care professionals “to recognize, analyze and intervene upon the structural factors that impact health disparities.” The new requirement applies to all master’s students starting this fall. 

The Family Nurse Practitioner specialty has been teaching a course focused on vulnerable populations for approximately 15 years, and the new Racism, Health Care and Social Justice course, grew out of that work. The FNP faculty are currently working with associate professor Linda Stephan, who chaired the task force, to expand the course to the pediatric NP students, and hope to expand it beyond that in future years.

What’s most gratifying to Stephan is that students initiated the discussion and faculty responded with action. 

“The student voice was a huge part of this, and faculty is listening,” Stephan said. 

Read the full story in our Science of Caring online publication.

(posted Sept. 30, 2020)