Research Opportunities

Course work in both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research design, data collection and measurement, and advanced research methods provides grounding for both basic and translational research. Preparation in statistical techniques appropriate to the conduct of nursing investigation is entailed. In addition, the student participates in two research residencies as part of an ongoing investigative team.

Notes: For more information, see the About Our Research page at this web site, and also the Faculty Research Activities compendium for specific listings.

Nursing Science

Content in philosophy of nursing science enables the student to reflect on the origins of scientific questions and methods, and to articulate a stance with regard to sources of knowledge, modes of inquiry, and models of scholarship. Course work in nursing science provides the student with a framework for understanding the history and development of nursing science; linking theory and practice to research; and thinking critically about research studies in the student's area of interest. Advanced Nursing Seminars allow students to see the articulation of theory and methods with substantive areas of nursing research.

Theory Development

Theory courses focus on the examination of extant theories in nursing and health sciences as well as relevant theories in biological, social, and behavioral sciences. Studies in this area enable the doctoral student to critique, use, test, and develop theory from a nursing perspective.


Cognates are courses in other disciplines that complement nursing science. They provide knowledge of basic and social sciences that is relevant to the student's substantive focus.

Research Training Resources

The School of Nursing and UC San Francisco campus provide a rich environment for developing the skills and depth of experience necessary to the development of researcher expertise. The wide spectrum of faculty research within the School of Nursing is described below. Statistical consulting and computing resources are available through the School of Nursing's Office of Research.

Multiple research-related opportunities are available through the school's Center for Symptom Management, The International Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Clinical Training in Nursing, and the Institute for Health and Aging. In addition, the campus offers many opportunities for multidisciplinary and collaborative research experience. Many multidisciplinary group seminars and conferences are offered on a daily basis.

Pathways to the PhD Program

There are various pathways to the PhD program. The majority of our applicants have previously completed a Master of Science degree at the time of application. A relatively small number apply with only the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Still others apply to the PhD program with a baccalaureate degree, while enrolled in the UCSF Master of Science program, having completed a Master's degree or having completed a doctoral of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Regardless of educational foundation, students apply to the school and meet the existing deadlines. Admission to the doctoral program is effective the fall quarter following acceptance.

While in the nursing doctoral program, those without a master's degree may apply to have it conferred when they have completed specialty requirements, 36 academic units, 8 graduate professional units, and the comprehensive examination or qualifying examination. A student without a master's degree also may choose not to earn the master's degree. Caution: UCSF will not confer a second masters degree to a person already holding an MS in nursing.

Family Health Care Nursing

The overall goals of research programs in the Department of Family Health Care Nursing are to promote health and optimal development of children, women and families; to prevent illness in these populations; and to develop interventions that address their responses to health and illness. The focus of study may be individuals, family member dyads or the family unit, often from multiethnic backgrounds.

To this end, research programs address the following: fatigue and sleep disturbances in women; women's symptom management strategies; reproductive health of women; midwifery processes of care that support the health of women throughout their life span; patient safety issues in maternity and newborn care; health and risk-taking behaviors in children; children's psychobiologic responses to stress; childcare health; environmental health and children; children in foster care; health promotion in children; obesity prevention and intervention in Chinese-American children; vulnerable adolescent populations; violence prevention; family violence; family processes, management, and health in the presence of chronic illness or disability in children or adults; interactions between families and schools to normalize lives of children with chronic conditions; issues relating to palliative/hospice care and bereavement; and religious organizations' roles in HIV prevention and AIDS care in sub-Saharan Africa; and environmental prenatal and postnatal exposure and risk factors in Central America.

Community Health Systems

Research in the Department of Community Health Systems focuses on the many facets of health and illness in diverse populations and communities, including health promotion, health protection and disease prevention; health equity and disparity; care and management of chronic illness; management related to mental, physical, environmental and occupational health and safety; and health care delivery systems. Faculty research addresses individual, family, and community health and illness issues and the impact at local, national, and global levels.

Within the context of community, faculty research focuses on:

  • Care of individuals and populations with psychiatric illness, including those suffering trauma or abuse; chronic diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS; workers at risk for injury or living with disability; and ethnic, racial and immigrant health;

  • Impact of disease or conditions on vulnerable populations (e.g., premature birth on infants and families; chronic illness and disability on health-related quality of life; and stigma on access to care);

  • Community and population-based interventions (e.g., self-management of chronic illnesses, health promotion in severe mental illness, lifestyle health behaviors and risk reduction, strategies to manage infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, preventive health and safety behavior at work, and drug and alcohol abuse);

  • Analysis of biological and behavioral variables that contribute to health and illness or serve as markers of disease progression or remission; and

  • Health care systems analysis, intervention, and evaluation (e.g., safety, organization of nursing staff to deliver care, organization and financial aspects of health care delivery systems).

Physiological Nursing

Doctoral education in the Department of Physiological Nursing 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.

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.

Further examples of research programs are the following: clinical and basic science investigations in pain management; assessment and management of pain in ER/trauma, critically ill ICU patients, and end-of-life; quality of care and quality of life issues in institutions for elderly people (cross-cultural); care-giving, sense of control, hearing impairment and type 2 diabetes mellitus in older adults; strategies to improve wound healing in surgical patients; correlates and treatments to affect dyspnea in patients with pulmonary disease, including exercise training, use of internet and yoga; 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 Nursing Research & Innovation (website) and the UCSF/John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence (website). 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.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

For information on the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, visit their departmental web page -- also see the affiliated Institute for Health & Aging web pages.