Nurse practitioner rhythmically choreographs pediatric care

Mallori Walker doesn’t only see her young patients when they are sick; she enjoys following them through their lives – watching them grow from infants to teens.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes

As she walks into the exam room Mallori Walker picks up one-week-old Atlee Chapman and begins to talk to the baby with a soothing familiarity. Atlee was born November 13th to Joe and Tabatha Chapman of Rensselaer.

In any given day Walker can see between 20-25 patients in her Lafayette office.

“I really like that I get to take care of such a wide age range of children and watch them develop from infants to toddlers – to see that intellectual development and physical growth and to walk along with them on that journey,” said Walker, who started her career with IU Health 11 years ago working as a nurse in bedside care at both IU Health Arnett and Riley Hospital for Children.

Nursing is a second career for Walker who grew up in Joliet, Ill. She followed her older brother Justin “Chris” Walker to Indiana when he came to Purdue on a baseball scholarship. She also has a younger brother Jason. Her parents are Juanita Carr and the late Melvin Walker. After receiving a degree in education and working for Purdue athletics for five years, she returned to pursue her nursing degree.

It was her late grandmother – Elizabeth Walker – who had a profound influence on Mallori’s decision.

When she was working at Purdue, her grandmother had a stroke and Walker spent time in North Carolina helping her father care for his mom.

“I saw how the nurses cared for her. They were giving her a bath and the nurse invited me to help,” said Walker. “I told my grandmother how I wanted to be a nurse like them. Grandma hadn’t said much and I went to give her a hug ‘good bye’ and it was like divine intervention. The last conversation I had with her she said ‘be the best nurse you can be.’ I got home and applied to Purdue to go into nursing.”

Since then she has been recognized with a Daisy Award celebrating the extraordinary compassion nurses provide to their patients. She is also a recipient of the IU Health Values Leadership Award and serves on the IU Health Diversity and Inclusion team.

Four years ago she became a nurse practitioner and rounded at IU Health Arnett Hospital where she saw many of the newborns who are now in her pediatric care. She also teaches courses at Purdue including leadership in nursing and pediatric health assessment.

Her days can vary from seeing a well child to a baby who wakes up with a fever. All her patients have a special place in her heart and Walker fondly remembers each child along with the parents.

When asked about someone who made a special impression on her Walker talks about an 11-year-old who came in for a concussion two years ago.

“I saw her frequently and it took her awhile to get better. Sometimes you don’t know exactly how that care translates to the kiddos long term,” said Walker. But she recently received a note from the child’s parent that the young patient had nominated Walker as her Hoosier Hero. She went to school to surprise the girl who offered a presentation on Walker.

Who knows, maybe some day that child will pursue a career in healthcare.

And Walker’s advice to others who choose that path: “I would say if you are interested in healthcare then find an opportunity to shadow someone in the field. It’s a commitment and I would also find someone that can be a role model – someone that you can trust and learn from. I have had a handful of them who have been good to me since I started in bedside care and encouraged me to get my master’s degree. They would ask me questions about the patients during rounds and help me prepare answers to tough questions.”

More about Walker:

  • She is a trained dancer in jazz, ballet, tap and hip-hop and serves as the head coach for the Purdue Dance Team. Twenty-two dancers practice three to four times a week and perform at every Boilermaker football game and at select men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball, and soccer games. It is the same dance team Walker performed with at Purdue. She also danced for the Indiana Pacers for six seasons after college.
  • When her father died eight years ago, Walker made a trip to Haiti where she met and sponsored two boys. She continues to go to Haiti twice a year and has helped the young men move from an orphanage into their own home. “People were so gracious to me when my dad died. We were overwhelmed with love and support. I wanted to pay if forward.”