Hold On to the Dream – From nurse to nurse educator.
As the oldest of seven children growing up in Chicago, Brenda Walker-Williams always had a deep sense of responsibility to be a role model for her younger siblings. She also dreamed of a career as a nurse.
She did a short stint at Loyola University, but did not finish. She eventually went on to earn an Associate degree in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. “My grades were not good when I attended Loyola so I had to work to improve my grade point average when I wanted to return to school,” says Walker-Williams. She had to convince an admissions panel at the community college she wanted to attend that she would be a successful student.
The work life
Early in her career, Walker-Williams experienced a powerful revelation: “As nurses, we have a duty to protect and care for patients when they are most vulnerable,” she says. “We have to deliver compassionate and competent care and gain patients’ trust to assist on their journey to wellness or recovery.”
She has worked as a charge nurse, staff nurse and nurse coordinator in several units (emergency room, surgery, pediatrics, cardiac care, and occupational clinic settings). She started mentoring student nurses on their clinical rotations while she worked in pediatrics and intensive care.
The journey to nurse educator
The seed was planted when her team consistently received favorable rankings from students. This got the attention of faculty who suggested that she consider teaching nursing students.
“After thinking about it, I applied to a vocational school to teach in the LPN program and was hired as a faculty member,” she says. She also entered the United States Army Reserve as an officer in the Nurse Corps. “I learned to deliver excellent nursing care to soldiers without the amenities of a civilian hospital.”
Before leaving the U.S. Army, she was awarded an Army Achievement medal from the Commanding Officer for assistance running a 24-hour clinic during a month-long military exercise.
The lesson of the day
Today, she is a clinical instructor and Anatomy and Physiology Lab coordinator at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Nursing and Health Studies. She is also a poet and shares inspiration poems with her students, along with a lot of appreciation and encouragement. “As an educator, I have the opportunity to shape and mold young minds, to spark curiosity, to question life and make new discoveries to improve health care outcomes for all,” she says.
As for the poetry, she has been commissioned to write a poem for the school’s upcoming 40th anniversary.