Santa Maria Health School, owned by the Portuguese Province of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, was created in 2016 and inherited the historical and educational legacy of ESESM (Nursing School of Santa Maria), the latter being the result of the evolution of the activity of teaching Nursing, since 1949, in Santa Maria Hospital (Porto), addressing the need to improve the training, almost exclusively practical-based, delivered until then to the nurses who were Sisters dedicated to treating the ones in need, without professional recognition.

The scholar institutionalization only happened in 1952, when the congregation obtained governmental authorization to open the Nursing School of the Franciscan Sisters of Calais, as the congregation was then called, and started to teach the degree in Nursing Assistance, opened only to female students but not exclusively to the Franciscan community. 

With a considerable increase in the demand, the Province decided to construct a building just for the school, located in an adjacent area of Santa Maria Hospital (Porto), inaugurated in 1960. This new building determined the autonomy of the School in relation to the Hospital and it was, since then, gradually expanded during the years 1962-1963 and 1968-1969.

In 1965, as a result of the change in the designation of the Province, the Nursing School adopted the name of “Nursing School of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady”.

In 1991, it became “Santa Maria Nursing School” and the first undergraduate degree in Nursing started being taught. In 2000, the Nursing degree began and later the post-graduations, regarding the same area.

Nowadays, Santa Maria Health School is part of the higher education polytechnic system, and offers Nursing and Physiotherapy degrees, Long-term care courses, several post-graduations, and other free courses. The school is certified by APCER, the Portuguese Association for Certification and its higher education degrees are certified by A3ES, the Assessment and Accreditation Agency for Higher Education.


To train and qualify healthcare professionals, valuing the scientific, technical, cultural and human aspects, in the respect of the dignity of the Human Person and safeguarding moral and ethical standards.


To be recognized as a reference school in the field of health and in the area of active and healthy aging.


  • To train highly qualified healthcare professionals, in an international reference framework, in several areas and levels of professional intervention;
  • To promote the dissemination of knowledge and to carry out research regarding Health and similar areas;
  • To promote continuous and graduated training of the graduates, empowering them to interdisciplinarity and cooperation;
  • To collaborate in the provision of services to the community, targeting the social, economic and cultural development in the surrounding region;
  • To support training, namely the ones the Institutional Entity intends to develop in the different areas of its intervention;
  • To promote the cooperation and the cultural, scientific and technical exchange with similar institutions, national and international, public or private, in a national or international reference framework, aiming the mutual enhancement, taking into account the European integration framework.

The Board of Directors ensures its support in implementing this policy and in meeting the applicable regulatory requirements.


ESSSM contributes to the strengthening of active citizenship, social cohesion and personal fulfillment, aiming the consolidation of advances in the various areas of knowledge in order to transform today’s society into a true society of knowledge and participation, with a spirit of solidarity and social concern.

The realization of training and activities directed to non-traditional audiences in order to respond to emerging issues of the surrounding community, which includes groups with specific social, family, professional and academic expectations, meets the objectives of social responsibility and attention to social issues to which the ESSSM can respond in a qualified and socially committed way. An example of this is the activities concerning the volunteer project “Santa Maria Solidária”.