Growing up, Laura Pruitt Walker and her sister always played either hospital or school. As the big sister, Walker got to play nurse or teacher, while her baby sister was stuck being the patient or the student.
“I have always loved helping people, and I believe this is what originally led to my becoming a nurse,” said Dr. Walker, JSU associate professor of nursing. “Nursing is a calling. It is such a well-respected career path where one can truly make a difference in a patient’s life.”
The same could be said for being a teacher. Just as she did as a child, Walker wasn’t satisfied with being just a teacher or a nurse. When it came to following her passion into a career, she chose both.
“A teacher can make a difference in a student’s life,” Walker said. “I truly love nursing and teaching. For me, JSU has given me the best of careers. I go to work every day with a smile on my face because I get to do what drives me, my passions - nursing and education.”
The lifelong Alabama resident has been a full-time member of the JSU faculty for 12 years. Walker was first drawn to JSU for the same reason as all other students – to further her education. With an associate’s degree in nursing in hand, she was working as a nurse manager at a local psychiatric facility, but the administration was requiring nurse managers to have a bachelor’s degree. As a student juggling a full-time job, JSU’s STEP program offered the perfect solution.
“I truly love nursing and teaching. For me, JSU has given me the best of careers. I go to work every day with a smile on my face because I get to do what drives me, my passions - nursing and education.”
Walker graduated from JSU with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2006. Soon after graduation, she was hired as a clinical associate at JSU.
“I have always liked varying experiences,” she said. “In 2006, I had my first clinical group at Mountain View Hospital in Gadsden. I had the pleasure of teaching a group of undergraduate third semester students about psychiatric nursing.”
That experience and those students would serve as a template for the next decade of Walker’s career at JSU.
“I learned that semester a person can have more than one passion in life,” she said, “and teaching had become a passion for me as well."
Dr. Walker with her clinical students at Mountain View Hospital on Halloween 2018.
Dr. Walker at a Paintology class with her nursing colleagues.
That single semester inspired Walker to get her Master of Science in Nursing degree, allowing her to teach. After graduating in December 2007, she applied for a full-time instructor position at JSU. She began teaching the Community Mental Health course in January of 2008. In 2010, she earned a doctorate in health education from AT Still University, allowing her to become an assistant, then associate, professor.
Walker continued to teach undergraduate courses, including mental health, nursing research, student success, and other courses, until May 2019 when she accepted a graduate-level faculty and track coordinator position. She’s currently the MSN track coordinator and an associate professor in the graduate nursing program. In April 2019, she was honored with the Raymond and Ruth Ringer Faculty Development Award from JSU.
Through it all, the students have always remained the most rewarding part of her job.
“The most rewarding part of teaching at JSU is going on the educational path with the student,” she said. “Seeing the theory part of the course you are teaching come to life in the simulation lab or the clinical setting, when it finally clicks and gets real for the student. It’s that ‘light bulb’ moment, or when you see a passion for nursing that you helped to ignite burn red hot in a student. That is pure joy!”
Dr. Walker resides in Southside with her husband Dannie. In her free time, she enjoys painting.