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Resident Spotlight: Allison Walczyk, AGNP-BC

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

APP resident Allison Walczyk, AGNP-BC, is the subject of this week’s spotlight interview. Walczyk talks to us about how the combination of complex medical conditions and balance of acute and chronic clinical care drew her to neurology, how her experiences working in emergency medicine and gerontology shaped the way she treats patients, and discusses her past (cross-country skiing in Oregon) and future (following wildebeests in Tanzania) travel plans.

What does a typical day for you look like in the Duke Neurology Advanced Practice Provider Program? How did you decide to join this program?

My interest in neurology started after graduating from college where I worked in clinical research at a multiple sclerosis center in Boston. During my clinical rotations as a NP student, my interest in neurology continued to grow as I was exposed to complex neurological patients in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. Unfortunately there aren’t many training programs available to advance practice providers in specialty fields, so I was thrilled when I heard about the program at Duke. I knew that a program such as this would provide me with diverse clinical training in neurology that would enable me to practice at the forefront of medical technology and treatment.

There is not really a “typical” day within the program, which is part of the reason why I was drawn to neurology in the first place. Depending on the rotation that I am in, days tend to involve a combination of direct patient care, academic didactic sessions, and interpreting specific radiographic and electrodiagnostic tests with the attending physician.

You previously worked as a nurse focusing on urgent care and emergency medicine. What persuaded you to make the leap to neurology?
I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of working in the ER and the variety of patient encounters. However I always found myself wondering what happened to the patient’s as they were transitioned to the floor. In particular, I was fascinated by the complex neurological cases that required thorough examination, detailed history taking, and skillful interpretation of neuroimaging by the neuro consult team. In addition, the therapeutic advances within the field of neurology and the potential research opportunities always peaked my interest. I knew that a career in neurology would offer the reward of insight into the most incredible organ, the human brain!

How does your previous work in emergency medicine and gerontology these two areas influence your current work? What, if anything, do you miss about working in these previous areas?
I think that my brief background and training in these two areas supplements my current work in neurology quite nicely. A large majority of patients brought to the emergency room suffer from neurological illness such as stroke, seizure, or headache so it is helpful to have some training in caring for these patient’s as a nurse. Likewise, several neurologic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cerebral vascular disease, and neuropathy are common among the elderly, a population that continues to grow. Within this program I am constantly learning and growing as a provider, which is extremely satisfying to someone such as myself who is committed to professional development. I think neurology offers a nice balance between acute and chronic care which makes me confident in my decision to pursue a career in the field.

What do you plan on doing after you complete your residency? If you could have any job, what would it be?
After completion of the program, I hope to work in an academic setting that incorporates translational neuroscience, clinical trials, and cutting edge patient care. In addition I hope to work with a multidisciplinary team that prides itself on learning from each other and by providing compassionate care to all. It is hard to say specifically what my ideal job would be at this point, because my interests continue to grow after each rotation! I do think work environment and department goals are essential though when considering a position.

What’s one new thing you plan on trying in 2017?
I am hoping to do some hiking in Asheville, NC this spring. I am originally from Portland, OR and love the outdoors and have heard that Asheville is a beautiful place. I am also going to Tanzania in August which will be an absolutely incredible experience. My family and I are going on a safari within the Serengeti National Park. I am hoping to see the wildebeest migration!

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I love to run, hike, bike, ski, or do anything that involves the outdoors. I recently went cross country skiing in Oregon but I would like to do some alpine skiing here in North Carolina. I hope to take advantage of some of my weekends off once I finish my doctorate (a Doctor of Nursing Practice through the Columbia University School of Nursing) in May 2017! I also love trying different types of cuisine and finding delicious hole-in-the wall restaurants. My favorites are Thai, Indian, and Greek.

Walczyk in Patagonia

Walyzcyk during a visit to Bariloche, in the northern Patagonia region of Argentina.