The University of San Francisco: School of Nursing

Sisters of Mercy and the History of the School of Nursing

Founded in 1831 by the Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, the Sisters of Mercy dedicated their work to the poor and needy residents of their city.  Unlike other religious orders in Dublin at the time with missions to educate and help the poor, the Sisters of Mercy did not follow a rule of cloister, instead designing their ministry to work broadly throughout the city, serving the hungry and sick.  The Sisters of Mercy now have a presence around the world with more than 3,500 sisters and more than 4,000 Mercy associates and volunteers providing human and social services in education, health care, and housing in North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean, Guam, and the Philippines. The organization serves communities and individuals suffering from poverty, sickness, and lack of education, with special attention paid to the needs of women and children.

The Sisters of Mercy brought their mission to provide healthcare and education to San Francisco in 1854.  Supporting this mission, the nursing program at the University of San Francisco was established in 1948 within the College of Arts and Sciences as a cooperative effort with the Sisters of Mercy. The program allowed registered nurses from nearby St. Mary’s Hospital to earn their baccalaureate degrees. In 1954, the nursing program was established as an independent department at the University of San Francisco. Accredited by the National League for Nursing in 1958, the School of Nursing and Health Professions was the first private nursing program in California. Additionally, it has achieved continuous accreditation for over 50 years and recently received continued accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

The School of Nursing and Health Professions has continued to evolve since its inception by building its program offerings and student body and continuing to strengthen its community work and presence in the Bay Area. In 1984, the school added the master of science in nursing degree, and in 2005, it added the Clinical Nurse Leader certification to its master’s programs. In 2007, the School of Nursing and Health Professions was approved to offer the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Continuing its legacy of meeting changing demands in the health care and nursing fields, the University of San Francisco was the first institution in California to offer this advanced degree for working nurses. In 2011, the master of public health program was added, and in 2013, the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD in Clinical Psychology) degree program was established.

For over 50 years, the School of Nursing and Health Professions has continued to grow and thrive while supporting the work and mission of the Sisters of Mercy and the University of San Francisco. The school has remained committed to advancing the preparation of professional nurses within the Jesuit academic tradition—a strong liberal arts and science foundation coupled with professional knowledge in the discipline of nursing. Likewise, the School of Nursing and Health Professions remains committed to justice, service, and academic excellence, and creates nurses and health care leaders who strive for equal access to competent and compassionate health care across all communities.