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Meet Nurse Practitioner Shirley Walker
October 24, 2012
Shirley Walker photograph

Shirley Walker is a nurse practitioner in the Women’s Health Clinic at Campus Health Services.

A keen observer

Nurse Practitioner Walker used to take her dog down to the Eno River State Park in order to find an out-of-the way spot where they would sit and observe. They would blend in with the surroundings to hear birds, see animals, and watch insects. Walker’s observational skills honed in the wilderness help in her role as a nurse practitioner.

Walker has been interested in and formed her career around working in women’s health, in part because she noticed early on that most folks have questions about their body, reproductive health, and sexuality. “I always wanted to hear people’s stories and answer their questions,” Walker said.  Answering questions is one of Walker’s specialties. She has served on and chaired the patient education committee within Campus Health for much of her time at UNC, and remains steadfast in her focus on educating her patients. The information is sometimes a review of a lesson her patient learned early on in school, but the intricacies of each individual case makes tailoring material imperative.  “Often there aren’t easy answers,” noted Walker, “but I’m not someone to rush a patient out of the room.” Walker ensures the patient has a clear understanding before they leave the appointment.

The Women’s Health Clinic

The Women’s Health Clinic at Campus Health prides itself on focusing on the needs of their patients without judgment.  Walker’s observant, direct, and open personality creates a sense of safety that allows her patients to disclose events they may never spoken aloud before. “The patient’s history, to me, means more than any physical exam,” notes Walker, “I learn more by listening than I could any other way.” This kind of care provides students with needed support for everything from pap smears to STI test results to surviving sexual violence. Students feel comfortable here. Creating that kind of safe environment is critical for sexual health conversations, and Walker and her Women’s Health colleagues are experts in that arena. When a young woman comes in for a well-woman’s visit –  the appointment is about more than her reproductive health. “It’s really about all aspects of their health and lives,” Walker reminds us. The patient drives the focus of the visit. Walker pointed out, “we create an environment that gives the patient control. We don’t mandate – we create choices and remove barriers.” 

Walker knows that students should be empowered in their own health care. When asked about any advice she’d offer, Walker returned to lessons from her Eno River excursions. “You have options. Observe. Listen to different types of people. Have an open mind. Gather info, and then take charge of your own health.”

Come see for yourself!

Nurse Practitioner Walker and the Women’s Health clinic are located on the 3rd floor of Campus Health Services.