Embracing a midlife career change and applying to nursing school
In early August 2023, Kris Hysler graduated from the University of Central Florida with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For the 38-year-old, her journey was anything but a straight-forward career path.
In college, she was a musical theater major. “I've been performing since I was 4. I was that kid who, at my dad’s holiday party, jumped on his boss’s table with a karaoke machine and sang for everyone,” she laughed.
She had worked in restaurant services as a bartender, sommelier, and restaurant manager since 2003. Then in 2019, Hysler moved home to help take care of her ill father.
The next year, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, her dad fell, hit his head, and had a brain bleed. He was admitted to the ICU and because of the brain injury, was confused and emotionally volatile. He was a danger to himself as he kept trying to get out of bed. So, Hysler stayed with her father in the ICU to help care for him.
“The nurses kept telling me I should be a nurse. I said, ‘No, I’m too old to switch careers,’” Hysler explained. There was also the issue of her hearing loss, which necessitates that she wears bilateral hearing aids. Becoming a nurse didn’t seem like it was even a possibility for her, but those nurses had planted a seed.
As the pandemic started to shutter businesses, Hysler lost her restaurant job. She began to contemplate the feasibility of switching careers. Could she really pursue a nursing degree with her hearing loss?
Hysler was taking care of her father after he was discharged from rehabilitation. Despite her age and her hearing impairment, she started taking nursing school prerequisites. She bargained with herself, saying, “If I like the classes, I’ll apply. If I don’t, I won’t.”
Combating hearing loss using Eko’s CORE™ digital stethoscope technology
In exploring the viability of nursing school, Hysler researched how she could compensate for her hearing loss. She initially wore headphones over a pair of older hearing aids to amplify the sound of her stethoscope. But the setup was bulky and uncomfortable.
Through her research, she discovered the superior sound amplification of digital stethoscopes and saw it as a better solution. But she would need new hearing aids to access the full benefit. With assistance from the college’s vocational rehab program, she was able to get new hearing aids. Wearing them, she could use the 3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope and connect her Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids to her stethoscope via the Eko App. So, she bought the device.
Hysler was admitted to nursing school in May 2022. With her hearing aids connected to her digital stethoscope via the Eko App, she could hear sounds much more clearly and see them on her phone. “It’s really important that I have access to both the visual and the auditory component,” she said. “Also, if I’m unsure of what I’m hearing, I can record it in real time and share the recording with another healthcare professional for a consult.”
Experiencing the new features of the Eko CORE 500™
A local news station filmed a segment with Hysler thanking the local hospital systems for providing a donation to the nursing school building. In the interview, “I was showing off my stethoscope to demonstrate that just because you have a physical disability, it doesn’t preclude you from going to nursing school,” she explained. “There are tools we can use.”
She sent the news segment to Eko, thanking the company for the role their technology played in her success. “I couldn’t have gone to nursing school without them,” she said.
Eko responded and asked her if she would like to try the newer Eko CORE 500™ Digital Stethoscope. She was excited to experience the new features. “I got it the last week of my clinical rotation,” she said.
Hysler was impressed with the quality of the stethoscope’s TrueSound™ technology. “It’s much clearer when somebody has rhonchi or rales,” she said. Those lung sounds had been difficult for her to distinguish from heart sounds during auscultation. “The cardiac and pulmonary settings are much clearer, and they transmit over Bluetooth much better,” she said.
Hysler also appreciates the full-color display directly on the CORE 500™. “It’s so cool; I can see the heart rhythm without having the phone out. I can use the stethoscope and look kind of normal,” she said.
Helping patients become more comfortable with their hearing loss
Hysler started wearing hearing aids about five years ago. Doctors are not sure what caused her hearing loss, but it may be genetically related. She has the most difficulty hearing at high-frequency ranges — but unfortunately, it's getting worse.
As a nurse, Hysler has found that talking about her own hearing loss helps patients who are hearing impaired. When she shows patients her hearing aids and talks openly about her hearing loss, patients are less embarrassed about theirs. They're more willing to wear their own hearing aids.
“Hearing loss can be isolating and lonely, especially with adult onset,” Hysler explained. “A lot of people feel like something's wrong with them. They don't want people to think they’re different.”
When patients see her digital stethoscope, they often give her a look that asks, “What is that thing?” She’s happy to share the technology with them. “I show them how cool the features are and how accessible it is,” she said. “They’re super impressed.”
Hysler’s father is very proud of her new career. After she completes the State Nursing Board exams, she hopes to work as a registered nurse for the Veterans Administration Hospital. “My dad is a vet and I’d love to be of service there. The patient population there is so special.”
Discover how Eko’s CORE™ stethoscope technology can empower hearing impaired healthcare professionals.