Nurse: “I Love To Hold Their Hands”

As a child, Grace Walke remembers playing “nurse” with one of her favorite toys. The Hedda Bedda Doll popular in the 1960s was known for its three faces. With the turn of a knob the doll changed from a sad face, to a sleeping face and then to a face covered in spots – like chicken pox or measles.

“The doll came with a hospital bed and I can remember taking care of her like a real patient,” said Walke, whose mother is also a nurse.  She grew up on the west side, graduated from Our Lady of Grace High School, and went straight to nursing school. Her first job was as a student nurse at the former Robert Long Hospital where she worked on the Med/Surg unit. She’s been with IU Health ever since.  She has worked in anesthesia since 2001.

“I’ve known Grace for a long time. She’s our go-to person with anesthesia,” said her supervisor Linda Allanson. “She’s the first person I go to with an emergency.”

Starting her shift at 6:30 a.m. Walke reviews the schedule for the day and begins making assignments for the team of nurses working in anesthesia.

“We are there when the patient gets in the room. We turn monitors on, set up lines, and talk to the patient,” said Walke. “There’s a lot of activity in OR and I want the patient to know there is someone there focusing on them. I can size them up pretty quickly and tell if they want to cry, joke or just be quiet. A lot of people are nervous. One of my favorite things is holding their hand and when I’m not holding their hand, I’m still right there, checking their pulse.”

Walke has been recognized for her commitment to her profession and positive attitude with an IU Health Values Leadership Award. In addition to her bedside nursing she serves as an instructor for Anesthesia Boot Camp, a preceptor for new Anesthesia nurses, and an instructor of an OR Fellowship program section. She is also a Past Presidents Circle of Honor Recipient from the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN).

Here are a few more things about Walke:

  • Her grandmother is from Slovakia and lived with Walke’s family for a time. Walke learned to speak Slovak before she spoke English.
  • Her self-appointed title is “The Answer Queen” because when people come to her with questions, she’ll search to find the answers.
  • She loves to read fiction. Author recommendation: Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny.
  • She enjoys attending theater productions. Recommendations: “The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton.”
  • It might surprise people to know . . . she hiked the Grand Canyon; has gone whitewater rafting (multiple times); ridden in a hot air balloon, participated in a medical mission trip to Vietnam, and stuck her toes in the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.