Rachel Walker, PhD '13, BS '07, RN, OCN
Through Their Eyes
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, Rachel Walker wanted to tackle the health problems she witnessed each day, but “I felt I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to help.” She pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing, began working with cancer patients, and soon began to wonder “How can I support people even after they leave the hospital and go back home?”
Walker discovered her answer in the PhD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, where she is conducting research that will make a tremendous difference for cancer patients and caregivers returning to their communities after treatment.
She got her first taste of research years earlier as a second-year nursing student in the Undergraduate Research Honors Program. She conducted her first research study, and after that, “I was suddenly able to envision a different possibility for myself and my career.”
Within a year of earning her bachelor’s degree, Walker began the PhD program at Johns Hopkins where, she says, “I’ve been able to learn everything—from the ground up—that’s necessary to become a successful a nurse scientist.”
Her research focuses on rural African-American seniors who are being treated for cancer and their friends and families who help care for them. She is interested in the work that survivors and caregivers must do in the months following treatment, especially those challenges that health care providers don’t often consider, such as paying bills, dealing with insurance, and maintaining a home. Walker is looking for ways that health care systems and providers can help.
She is also learning to be an educator. As part of her PhD coursework, she was able to earn her Nurse Educator Certificate and “learn the nuts and bolts” of education that aren’t taught in traditional doctoral programs.
After graduation, she aims for a nurse faculty position, where she can serve as both teacher and nurse researcher in geriatrics. “It’s work that leads to lasting change, not just for the people I’m working with today, but hopefully for people and communities all over the planet,” she says.