Andrea Saito portrait

Andrea Saito

MS '08, RN, ACNP

Andrea Saito was 6 years old when her parents first broached the idea of a college education.

“It seemed revelatory to me at the time,” she said. After all, no one in her immediate or extended family had attended college.

While her parents assured her that she would have their support, regardless of what future endeavor she chose, she decided to pursue college and a career in health care.

“I really loved science and learning about human physiology,” she said. “It was also really important to me to be able to help people every day. I saw a career in nursing as a way to give equal weight to both.”

Saito became the first in her family to graduate from college, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Oregon Health and Sciences University in 2004. She worked as a critical care nurse for a couple years, before returning to school for an advanced practice degree. She attained her master’s degree from the UCSF School of Nursing in 2008 and became certified as an acute care nurse practitioner.

In 2011, she founded the Critical Care Nurse Practitioner program at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care. She was the first NP to work in its ICU and one of the first NPs in the inpatient hospital. 

Andrea Saito with colleague
Andrea Saito (left) speaks with colleague Larisa Starinsky at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at the Parnassus Heights campus.

Over the past decade, she and her colleagues have worked to expand the program to 11 NPs and plan to grow the team over the next few years. In addition to managing and coordinating the daily care of patients admitted to the ICU each day, the NP team runs the hospital code blue and emergency team response, provides education and training to Stanford residents and medical students, precepts UCSF adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner students, and provides leadership for all critical care initiatives.

Andrea Saito speaks to students
Andrea Saito (right) speaks with her master's students at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center as they prepare to see patients as part of their clinical training.


Andrea Saito with student and patient
Andrea Saito (left) mentors master's student Shirley Reddy as she examines a patient at UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center.


Today, Saito continues her clinical practice at the VA Palo Alto while serving as a clinical professor at the UCSF School of Nursing, teaching in the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialty.

“Looking back on my career, there were many challenges I overcame,” she said. “Academic writing, professional communication, and how to lead a committee were not skills I entered college with, but were things that I learned over time by watching and observing others.”

Her advice to other first-gen college students: Build a strong social network.

“My student peer group was instrumental in helping me navigate new social norms when I first started college, and my NP student cohort helped me immensely in developing my time-management skills,” Saito said. “Working with a faculty mentor, both formally and informally, helped me develop my career goals and identify opportunities for professional success.”

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