SCCA nurse researcher's passion: 'Taking care of families'

Amy walker Amy Walker.

For Amy Walker, nursing research and a commitment to family-centered care go hand-in-hand.

Walker joined SCCA in June 2016 as our nurse scholar, which is a joint appointment with the University of Washington that will focus on expanding the ability of our nurses to integrate evidence-based practice and research into clinical and operational processes.

SCCA’s exceptional nursing care drives new knowledge, innovations, and improvements. While many of our nurses are involved in research through caring for patients on SCCA’s clinical studies, Walker is looking forward to supporting nursing-specific research that will have an immediate impact on patient care.

“When we talk about cancer care, we talk so much about trying to find a cure, and I’m really interested in balancing that with taking care of the patients and the families and improving their quality of life,” Walker said. “I think where nursing research really shines is helping people manage their symptoms and helping families deal with the impact of the disease on their lives, not just the disease itself.”

After pursuing a non-medical career, Walker returned to school to study nursing. Her early clinical experiences in pediatric intensive care and then in hospice nursing were elemental in shaping her focus on family-centered care. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, Walker has been an assistant professor at the University of Washington, where she has developed a program of research related to families facing childhood cancer.

“My real passion is taking care of families,” Walker said. “When you take care of children, you’re always taking care of the whole family.”

Walker, MSN, PhD,  is currently the principal investigator for a National Cancer Institute-funded study titled “Parenting in the Face of Cancer: Non-Ill Sibling and Parent Relationships,” which is examining the impact of a sibling’s cancer diagnosis on the parent-child relationship of the non-ill sibling. Providing communication tools to families is a key component of this work, and Walker recently wrote a grant for an early intervention that would encourage parents to have quality, daily communication with their non-ill children.

As she begins her new role at SCCA, Walker is looking forward to being a resource for SCCA nurses, hearing their ideas for improving quality, and helping them make a positive impact on patient care through research. “I can get passionate about lots of different things, so I find people’s new ideas really exciting,” Walker said.