Nursing Runs in the Family

Curly hair, olive skin, a taste for cilantro...Some traits run in the family.  But what about an affinity for care-giving?

For Madeline Silva, nursing may be in her genes. For four generations, the women in her family have cared for people, whether recovering from surgery, childbirth, or suffering from allergies or asthma. This fall, Madeline will pursue her doctorate in nursing at Emory University to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)—not an easy feat for someone with hearing loss. But with genetics like these, what’s to stop her?

Way back in the 1940’s, a pioneering woman by the name of Mildred Heeg Hain became one of a small cadre of nurse anesthetists when she obtained a certification from the Lakeside School of Anesthesia in Cleveland. A widow, Mildred supported four children by working as an independent nurse anesthetist in Dayton, OH, specializing in otology.

One of those four children, Jean, obtained her nursing degree from The Ohio State University only a decade later. She worked in Public Health, dedicating herself to improving the lives of others by making home visits to her patients and encouraging them to take their children to the doctor’s office for regular care, which was challenging when they could barely afford bus fare. She later worked as a school nurse.

Twenty years later, Jean’s daughter, Christina, graduated with a degree in nursing, also from The Ohio State University, and then continued her education at Georgia State University, where she received an MSN in 1988. Christina is today an independent Nurse Practitioner, focusing on allergy, asthma, and immunology.

Christina was both pleased and a little worried when her younger daughter, Madeline, decided she too wanted to become a nurse. Why the trepidation? Because Madeline suffers from a hearing impairment, making it difficult for her to hear heart and lung sounds.

“I would never have dreamed that Madeline would be able to succeed in nursing school,” Christina says, noting that college wasn’t a problem, but when Madeline decided she wanted to become a nurse, mom Christina “went into panic mode.”

In fact, both of Christina’s daughters are hearing-impaired, although Christina and her husband have normal hearing. When Madeline started to apply to nursing schools, Christina began to realize how challenging that profession would be—especially using a stethoscope. That’s when they started looking for an amplified stethoscope for Madeline.

“Everything required her to take her hearing aids out,” she says,  “and then we found Thinklabs. It’s been a God-send.”

She called Thinklabs one day and wound up speaking with Founder and CEO Clive Smith. Smith was intrigued by the fact that Christina had normal hearing, and her two daughters were hearing-impaired; and, of course, by the four generations of nurses in the family.

Smith wanted to help, and he asked that Christina stay in touch and let him know about Madeline’s success in nursing school. At the time, there was a 4-6-week wait for the brand-new Thinklabs One, which was just then making its market premiere.

Fast-forward six years. Thinklabs gets a call from Christina. Madeline had graduated with her BSN from Georgia State, where she also has been working as an ICU nurse in the neurology unit, and she had been accepted into the doctorate-CRNA program at Emory. Not only had she succeeded in her bachelor’s program, she had made it into one of the top doctor of nursing practice - CRNA programs in the country.

Madeline and Christina credit the Thinklabs One with helping her be successful. Madeline says she never missed a beat in school. “I call it my magical stethoscope,” she says.

Madeline says she received many comments from colleagues who have praised her auscultation abilities, some even remarking that she hears better than they do.

She uses her Thinklabs One with Phonak BTE hearing aids and a Compilot neck loop and never has to remove her hearing aids. The cable connection between the stethoscope and the Compilot allows the sounds to be streamed directly into the hearing aids, for excellent audio quality.

Ultimately, Madeline would like to work surgeries in a Level 1 Trauma Center because she likes critical thinking and the challenge of having to be on her feet all day. Like her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she also wants to be a calming presence for people who are scared and in pain.  

“Thinklabs One is the only reason Madeline has been able to follow her dream and be a 4th generation RN,” says her mother Christina.  

It’s stories like these that make every day worth our while for the team at Thinklabs.