Student Spotlight: Laurie Walker
Laurie Walker remembers the date: Dec. 23, 2003.
That’s the day the younger of her two sons was diagnosed with diabetes. It’s also the date that inspired Walker to change careers.
In the mid-’80s, Walker earned her bachelor’s in Mass Communications at Illinois State University and took summer classes at College of DuPage to get ahead in school while completing an internship.
Twenty-five years later, she wanted to work in medicine.
“Eight months after Brian’s diagnosis, I started working as a nursing assistant at the endocrinology office where my son was treated,” she said. “Their physicians and nurse encouraged me to go back to school to earn my nursing degree. The nurse at my son’s endocrinology office was also the mother of a child with diabetes. That combination was invaluable to our family and me. I wanted to be able to provide that same experience to other families navigating diabetes.”
So she returned to College of DuPage and started completing prerequisites for the Associate Degree in Nursing program.
“College of DuPage has the reputation of having an outstanding Nursing program,” she said. “I have heard from many sources that if two graduates are equally qualified for a job, the employer will choose the COD graduate due to how well the COD program prepares their students. Their nursing instructors are well-qualified to teach the courses and bring with them life experiences.”
During her time at COD, Walker earned the Illinois Health Improvement Association scholarship.
“This scholarship meant that others recognized my academic accomplishments and were willing to support my further education,” she said. “They saw the passion I have for helping others and educating the community on health issues, and they attached value to it. It meant my hard work paid off.
“It also made it easier for me to attend COD. I had to cut my work hours down to one day a week in order to accommodate my classes and studies. This scholarship helped fill the gap. Plus, I was paying for my oldest son to attend college at a four-year university.”
Two months after graduating, Walker was hired as an RN by DuPage Medical Group, which employs more than 400 physicians in 40 locations throughout DuPage County and the surrounding areas. She worked in family practice for one year and assisted five doctors, providing care for patients from birth to death.
She then transferred to DuPage Medical Group’s new Pediatric Endocrinology Department, which consisted of one physician, a registered Medical Assistant and Walker, the RN.
“Starting a department from scratch was both rewarding and challenging,” she said. “I was involved in every aspect of developing the department, including creating protocols, building relationships with pharmaceutical reps, providing patient care, ordering supplies, creating department manuals and much more. It was a fantastic experience.”
Walker also has been fortunate to follow her passion and help children with diabetes and their families. She is Certified Insulin Pump Trainer and a Certified Continuous Glucose Monitor Trainer. In addition, she passed the certified diabetes exam and is a Certified Diabetes Educator.
After DuPage Medical Group closed her department, Walker found a job working for Rush Copley Medical Group in family practice.
“I work for a busy office of three doctors where there is always something new to learn,” she said. “I find it satisfying to help patients whether it is making them feel better in the moment, being sure they have the medications they need or facilitating the testing that they require.
“As a Certified Diabetes Educator, I continue to be the diabetes specialist contact for our office and provide training on diabetes injection devices as well as guidance in diet modifications to help patients reach their blood sugar goals. I find this to be the most satisfying part of my job. To see someone motivated to make the necessary changes to improve their health and then follow up with them to see their success is very rewarding.”
She thanks College of DuPage for helping her by offering courses that are relevant and practical as well as reasonably priced.
“The hospital clinicals exposed me to a variety of wonderful learning experiences. The instructors helped guide me toward what area of the nursing profession would be a good fit for me and opened my eyes to areas I never knew existed,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed taking nursing classes at COD. Although I don’t miss the studying, I do miss the experience. I made some great friends in the ADN program.”
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