Purdue Nursing alumna seeks to empower nurses as leaders in inclusive, equitable care

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Mallori Walker

Mallori WalkerPhoto provided

Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) alumna Mallori Walker knows she was born to be a pediatric nurse practitioner — a statement that has been echoed by her former professors in the School of Nursing. Now a pediatric nurse practitioner at IU Health Arnett; chair of IU Health’s system-wide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) council; a lecturer in the Purdue School of Nursing; and a doctoral student at Rush University, Walker hopes to continue to lead the nursing profession to new heights.

“We are advocates for our patients,” Walker said. “We’re advocates for equitable care. We’re advocates for inclusivity. We’re advocates for diversity and the people that we take care of and the people that we work with. I want to empower my profession to encourage leadership holistically. That’s a lot to do in a 12-hour shift, but I want to be a part of that change that shifts our mindset on our scope of practice as nurses, especially when it comes to inclusivity and equitable care.”

Despite Walker’s successful career in the nursing field, she didn’t always plan to pursue this path. While she’d considered becoming a nurse in high school, she ultimately talked herself out of it, earning her first degree from Purdue in education. It wasn’t until her grandmother had a debilitating stroke and Walker went to North Carolina to help care for her that she realized her true passion.

“While I was there, I watched how the nurses cared for my grandma,” Walker said. “She was incoherent. She wasn’t communicating, and a lot of times, that happens with a stroke. But they talked to her as if she was like you or me — totally healthy. I was like, ‘These people are angels here on earth. I’ve always wanted to do this, and now I see it.’”

While she was aiding one of the nurses in giving her grandmother a bath, she decided she was going to apply to Purdue’s second degree Bachelor of Science in nursing program. In solidifying her decision, she spoke her intention to become a nurse out loud to her grandmother.  

“My grandma did not speak an entire word the entire five days that we were there, but after I said that, my grandma said to me, ‘Angel, you go and be the best nurse you can be,’” Walker said. “That’s the very last conversation I had with my grandmother.”

As she has grown in her leadership and passion for pediatric nursing, being promoted to lead advanced practice provider for maternal child health at IU Health Arnett, Walker has also expanded her reach within the IU Health system as she accepted her nomination to lead the system-wide DEI council.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” Walker said. “I’ve been passionate about it since, well, forever because my parents both grew up in the civil rights era. My parents have always been open and honest in sharing their life experiences with my brothers and me.”

In leading the council, Walker has focused on diversifying the workforce through talent acquisition adjustments as well as providing equitable care through accommodations such as language services and inclusive dietary considerations.

In addition to her system-level work at IU Health, Walker has also played a large role in diversity, equity and inclusion work in IU Health’s west central region, which includes Lafayette, Monticello and Frankfort, to provide education on important DEI-related topics. She also played a large role in helping start the DEI committee in the Purdue School of Nursing in summer 2020.

Back in July, Walker was recognized for her outstanding work across the IU Health system as a pediatric nurse practitioner and leader and was honored as a Class of 2021 Woman of Distinction by YWCA Greater Lafayette.

“While you don’t do this for recognition — that’s just not how I was raised, that’s just not who I am — that people see that and want to recognize it, it was heartwarming,” Walker said.

As Walker continues to excel in her career, she hopes to grow as a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion. Above all, though, she hopes to uplift her fellow nurses.

“I want equitable care, but I also want us as nurses to know that we play a huge part in that,” Walker said.