Lawrence Laundry: Nurse practitioner says Converse sneakers lessen patients’ anxiety

Susan Stuever shows off one pair of her Converse shoes with her dog Wednesday.

Susan Stuever is a fan of Converse shoes, from solid colors to two-toned and leopard skin.

Susan Stuever believes her shoes serve a purpose other than bridging the gap between function and form.

In fact, she would say her Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers serve a role in her work at Health Care Access, a local safety net clinic that serves uninsured community members.

“You’ve heard of ‘White Coat Syndrome’ — how people’s blood pressure goes up when they are in a doctor’s office but not elsewhere? Well, I found out I can counteract that with fun and colorful sneakers. How can your blood pressure go up when your health care provider walks in the room wearing a pair of bright red or leopard print Converse?”

Stuever, a nurse practitioner, volunteers at Health Care Access twice per week in addition to her volunteer work at the Humane Society, Jubilee Café, Young Life, Vintage Church, Fields of Promise Ethiopia and International Medical Relief in Peru.

“I think volunteering has really helped me and my family think outside of ourselves and recognize the great need there is right here in Lawrence as well as in places as distant and Ethiopia and Peru. We were created to serve, and that’s what volunteering is,” she says.

This summer, Stuever’s family, including her husband, Kevin, a physician who also practices in Lawrence, and their three children, will travel up the coast of Peru providing free medical care with an organization called International Medical Relief. And her shoes will be there for it all.

“I have six pairs of Converse shoes, and they have traveled the world. I’m wearing my leopard print ones to the jungle in Peru this summer.”

Susan began her career in health care at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City specializing in treatment of HIV in kids with blood disorders. After having her second child, she went on maternity leave and decided not to return to Children’s Mercy. A few years and another child later, she chose to spend the rest of her career using her skill set to serve those in need, both people and animals.

“I’m passionate about the in-need. Everything I volunteer for intertwines in a way: homeless animals, homeless people, low-income residents, it doesn’t matter.”

Since beginning to volunteer at Health Care Access 17 years ago, she has found the lack of resources to be a challenge because she has to alter the way she administers treatments.

“When I worked in a hospital, I never thought about peoples’ hospital bills because there was a social worker somewhere worrying about that. Now, every time I write a prescription I think about whether the person can afford it. It’s really all about discovering avenues for finding care for a person.”

Stuever and her husband have instilled their love of serving the underserved in their children as well. They have involved their children in their volunteer and mission endeavors since they were young.

“We have to teach our kids that the rest of the world doesn’t live like them. Just because we have a lot of stuff doesn’t mean we couldn’t be happy without that stuff,” she says.

Because she talks with such passion about volunteering in underprivileged countries, I asked when she and her husband would uproot and move to Ethiopia or Peru. Fortunately for Lawrence, there are no plans to move abroad.

Why? Stuever says simply, “There’s an awful lot to be done here.”