Student Spotlight: Charles Walker Brings Social Justice to the Forefront of Nursing

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Charles Walker, RN, BSN

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The above definitely reflects Charles Walker. Since graduating from the newly revived Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at UTHSC last December, Walker is showing no signs of slowing down.

A native of Memphis and the son of Barbara and William Walker, he graduated from White Station High School in 2010.

Walker then enrolled at Rhodes College, where he was a biology, anthropology and sociology bridge major.

“This was an interdisciplinary major not formerly offered, but was drafted in an attempt to create a connection between the biological sciences and the people that it impacts,” Walker said.

Volunteer work played a vital role in Walker’s undergraduate experience. He was a part of the Bonner Scholarship Program, where he participated in 10 hours of community service per week.

Over the years, Walker also worked with numerous organizations such as Regional One Health, Evergreen after-school program, and GlobeMed, an organization that partners students with grassroots organizations to address health disparities, and educates and trains student advocates for global health equity.

Walker became a representative for the organization and was able to spend time in Ghana and Nicaragua. It was during this time that he cemented his passion for health care not only as a career, but a human right.

“Each year, the Rhodes College chapter raises $10,000 to send to A Ministry of Sharing Health and Hope (AMOS) in Nicaragua to fund a water filtration project,” said Walker.

“Many children and adults suffer from preventable diseases like diarrhea and dehydration and die because of their lack of access. I spent six weeks in Nicaragua — three of those at the AMOS headquarters and three weeks in the field with the community members. As interns, our task was to assess the efficacy and utilization of the water filters in the community, and at the end of the six weeks, present our data to the foundation.

“During that time in Nicaragua, I met a nurse from the United States working at the clinic. Seeing her direct patient interaction in the clinic and getting to know her over the course of six weeks inspired me to apply to nursing school and use that knowledge to travel to other developing countries to provide health care.”

Walker was also a track and field athlete at Rhodes. He participated in the 800-meter dash, 400-meter dash, and got the chance to anchor the men’s varsity track and field team to a two-point victory over their rival college in the 2014 Southern-Athletic Association Conference Championship. He was also a member of the distance medley relay team that currently holds the school record.

“Service and sports played an integral role in my college career, and are still important to me today. I try to get involved whenever and wherever I can,” said Walker. After graduation, he decided to continue his endeavors in health care-related studies. When it came to choosing a school, UTHSC was immensely appealing to him.

“One of the big draws to UTHSC was the accelerated pace,” Walker shared. “I finished my first undergraduate degree just under two months before beginning the BSN program here at UTHSC. When looking at schools, I considered factors, such as location, tuition and higher educational programs offered.

“Even before applying to BSN programs, I knew that I would eventually continue my education beyond that, so I wanted to choose a program that had a breadth of disciplines to offer.

“I had also heard that UTHSC had great clinical relationships with many of the hospitals in Memphis, so that made the choice much easier for me.”

Walker served as the president of the Nursing Student Government Association, and was a member of the Student Government Executive Council. He served as a BSN class representative and  a student representative for the BSN admissions committee, where he recommended changes and revisions for the current BSN program, and assisted the UTHSC admissions team with creating suggestions for prospective BSN students.

“Student involvement is important to me,” Walker said. “I want to have a voice in what goes on in my college, and if there are changes that need to be made, I take pride in playing a role in that and being an advocate. I also tend to be more productive when I have numerous activities going on. It has been a great venue for me to meet students that I may have never come into contact with and learn a lot about the different activities UTHSC provides for its students.”

Jamie Overton, MAEd, director of Student Affairs for the College of Nursing, had great things to say about Walker. “Charles helped to bring student awareness of various activities on campus and within the community to increase CON student participation,” she said.

“His leadership skills, professionalism and positive outlook were evident when interacting with his peers, faculty and staff.”

In what spare time he has, Walker enjoys running, watching FOX’s “Empire,” eating his body weight in Huey’s cheese fries, hanging out with friends, and listening to music.

Walker advised incoming students to be open to change.

“It is so important to be flexible and willing to learn in new ways. I would also suggest that you develop a strong support network, whether that be a spouse, significant other, partner or family member.

“Nursing is such a team-oriented profession, and it is so important to have people that can encourage you during this time. It takes a village to raise a nurse, and you will soon learn the value in your professors for knowledge, your family and friends for emotional support, and especially your fellow classmates. It is a difficult journey, but I can say that I am glad I chose it.”

Walker has his sights set on using his knowledge and training to educate people and be an advocate for people who are unable to advocate for themselves.

“I think that it is so important for nurses to make sure that their patients get the most quality care possible, and by the same token, it is also important that nurses are treated fairly and are supported by their hospital network,” Walker said.

“I am not sure where exactly I will be 10 years from now, but my hope is that I will be able use my knowledge and passion for social justice to impact the health care system on a larger scale.”

Walker began working for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in March, and is a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit. Although still orienting himself with his new environment, Walker says it has been enjoyable, and he is looking forward to learning more each day.

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