Nursing graduate overcomes hearing impairment to earn degree
Topeka, Kan. — Diagnosed with conductive hearing loss as a toddler that required a dozen surgeries by the time she was in a middle school, Kristina Vazquez admired the work of health professionals throughout her childhood. The connection she developed between doctors and nurses during those years inspired her to pursue a career in health.
"I had a lot of the same nurses and developed relationships with them," Vazquez said. "I remember how comfortable they made me and my family feel by the they explained how ears worked and what the procedures would do for me."
On Friday, Dec. 13, Vazquez will join 42 Baker School of Nursing classmates at the traditional pinning ceremony at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in Topeka, Kan. Two days later, she will become the first in her family to graduate from college when she receives her Bachelor of Science in Nursing during commencement ceremonies at the Collins Center on Baker's Baldwin City, Kan., campus.
Six weeks before graduating, Vazquez accepted a position working as a medical-surgical nurse at Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, Kan. She begins her new job on Jan. 6.
"I have always been interested in the nursing field after spending so much time in hospitals," said the 25-year-old Vazquez. "I liked how the nurses interacted with me. I knew when I grew up I wanted to care for patients like that."
After graduating from Manhattan (Kan.) High School and completing her prenursing requisites at Kansas State, Vazquez enrolled in Baker's two-year nursing program at Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka, Kan., in January 2012. She didn't allow her hearing impairment to prevent her from completing her coursework or clinicals with the rest of her classmates.
"I was able to get an amplified stethoscope through the school and that helped me tremendously," she said. "It gave me more confidence that, 'Yes, I can do this.' When I eventually received my own stethoscope, I realized I could do what everybody else could and that there were no limitations."
In addition to adapting to the stethoscope, Vazquez went through a divorce during nursing school, worked two jobs and raised her daughter, Cambria, who turns four later this month.
"It's been a long, hard road to get to this point but well worth it," Vazquez said. "My family is very close and they have helped me a lot, especially my parents (Wesley and Bren)," she said. "There were times when they came to Topeka to stay with me and help care for my daughter. I would not have been able to do this without their help. I have been very blessed."