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The UW School of Nursing has a national and international reputation for excellence. An unusually fertile environment for nursing research guides and shapes its baccalaureate and graduate educational programs. It also builds practice that emphasizes leadership skills for the health care needs of a multicultural world.


Box 357260
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone: 206-543-8736

B. Josephine Ensign, FNP, DrPH
Associate Professor

Psychosocial & Community Health
Box 357263
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-7263

Email Address:


I hold an undergraduate degree in Biology and Religion from Oberlin College, and a doctorate in public health from the Johns Hopkins University. I have done postgraduate work in medical ethics at Harvard University and in narrative medicine from Columbia University. I am also Adjunct Associate Professor in the UW Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Affiliate Faculty in the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, Certificate Program in Public Scholarship. Since 1986, I have worked as a family nurse practitioner providing primary health care to homeless and refugee populations in community clinics on both coasts of the US. Through a Fulbright Fellowship, I expanded my research and advocacy internationally with work in Thailand. The focus of my career has been to increase an understanding of the lives of marginalized populations, and to develop ways to increase their access to effective health care. My research is practice-based, policy-relevant health services research aimed at the real-world 'wicked problems' of homelessness and health. As a university faculty member I have published numerous journal articles and book chapters on homelessness, human rights, and health. I write about topics and lives lived at the margins of society in order to create a space for empathy conducive to action.


Current teaching includes undergraduate and graduate-level courses in health politics and policy, community health, and narrative medicine. I co-teach a UW honors study abroad program in community and environmental health in New Zealand. My teaching emphasizes experiential and transformational learning (including service-learning), inquiry-based cooperative learning, and development of critical thinking skills. I feel my main teaching responsibility is nurturing compassion, critical thinking, and civic engagement skills of students to enable them to become change agents.

Practice, Service, Community Involvement

Professional memberships include the Association of Health Care Journalists, PEN America Society, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the Northwest Science Writers Association. I have served as a Core Advisory Group Member of YouthCare's Bridge Program, a rehabilitation program for teen prostitutes in Seattle. I serve as a faculty preceptor for the Teeth and Toes homeless clinics, in conjunction with the UW Community Health Advancement Program (School of Medicine) and the UW School of Dentistry.

Current Publications

Ensign, J. (May 17, 2013) “On the Road” essay published in Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine. Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Ensign, J. (May 20013) “Soul Story” essay published in Jack Straw Writers Anthology, volume 17.

Ensign, J. (April 2013) “Next of Kin” essay in the anthology I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse, edited by Lee Gutkind, In Fact Press.

Ensign, J. (Spring 2013). Home Death. Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine.

Ensign, J. (November 2012). Homeless Ghosts. University of Iowa‘s Examined Life Journal.

Current Research Projects

J. Ensign, PI, “Soul Stories: Design and Evaluation of Interprofessional Service-learning Narrative Medicine Project. 4Culture Grant.

J. Ensign, PI, “Soul Stories,” (essays/photos about the stories feet can tell about homelessness/for UW School of Medicine Interprofessional service-learning training modules). Jack Straw Productions Writers Program Grant.

J. Ensign, PI, “Catching Homelessness,” 4Culture Grant for research and completion of book manuscript (under review: University of Iowa Press).

J. Ensign, PI, “MedRest: Medical Respite Care for Homeless Youth,” The GroupHealth Foundation Children and Teens Grant Program, pilot program.

J. Ensign, PI, “Mitigating the effects of mental and substance abuse disorders in street children in Bangkok, Thailand,” Puget Sound Partners for Global Health.

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