— By TYLER MASK
From a very young age, Palo Pinto General Hospital Education Director Mary Beth Walker, MSN, was interested in science. Having a mother who was a geologist and mathematician only fueled her passion further. In combination with a strong desire to help people, Walker chose to go into the medical field, where she has felt at home for more than 38 years.
Born and raised in Southern California, Walker recalls growing up in “hippyville.” During her early childhood, Walker had friends with older siblings who would drag Walker around to various “hip” events.
“I was born a ‘valley girl,’ and grew up in the ‘OC,’” Walker said comically. “We got to do and see all kinds of things that little kids might not have gotten to do if they didn’t have older siblings, like Beatlemania. I was going into the first grade when that was going on, but my best friend’s sister was five years older than us, so she was a teenager. Her mother was from England. We’d go to school, and no one would know what we were talking about.”
Once Walker was ready to go to college, she picked up the torch and headed to Texas Christian University. Walker was a “legacy child,” following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who founded the physics department, and her mother, who studied at TCU.
While at TCU, Walker met her husband, a seminary student, Jimmy Walker, who eventually led to her planting roots in Mineral Wells.
“I married a boy with Palo Pinto dirt under his fingernails,” Walker said. “He grew up here in a ranching family. He grew up here, went to high school, left to go to college and was happy when we were able to come back and be close to his grandmother. And our kids were teenagers, and we wanted a little more control over the environment.”
The first decade of their marriage, prior to their arrival in Mineral Wells, her husband served as a minister. Eventually, he pursued finance and found himself working in the second Edward Jones office in Mineral Wells. The Walkers have lived in Mineral Wells for 19 years, but Mary Beth Walker just established herself at PPGH a year ago.
During the first 18 years of her tenure in Mineral Wells, Walker started teaching in TCU’s nursing program, which was a move she felt she needed to make after working multiple jobs.
“When we moved to Mineral Wells, I had just finished my master’s degree and wanted to start teaching,” Walker said. “I did a little bit of part time stuff. I did some part time work [at Palo Pinto General Hospital] in women’s services, and part time at TCU, and part time as a nurse practitioner at John Peter Smith, and then it got to be where I had too many jobs.”
Walker’s transition into teaching was smooth. She signed on full time with TCU, and all she had to do to keep her nurse practitioner’s license active was work eight hours a week fulfilling that role. Although she eventually let her license go inactive, Walker was happy with what she was doing at TCU because not only did she feel a call to be a nurse, she felt a call to be a teacher. Her mark on TCU is huge.
“Every nurse has got some teaching in his or her heart because a lot of what we do is teach people how to take care of themselves, how to mend from illness, how to manage their chronic illnesses,” Walker said. “Nurses do a lot of teaching.
“The last eight years, I ran [TCU’s] labs, specifically developing [their] simulation lab. Human-patient simulators are full body simulators, and you can do all kinds of wonderful teaching with that.”
But just about a year ago, Walker felt a call from God that it was time for a change. She still wanted to teach, but desired a new outlet. During this time, PPGH just so happened to post a position for a clinical-nurse-educator, which was a revived position that no one had filled for years. Walker applied, and PPGH took her right away.
Shortly after her arrival, Walker also became the education department manager. Although it’s only been a year and her department is still evolving, Walker couldn’t see herself doing anything else.
“I love what I am doing,” Walker said. “I love my job. I love being here. I love being able to give back to the community and to be involved in the place I have lived for the last 19 years.”