Note: At its Dec. 6 Women in Business Breakfast, the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce named twelve Women of Distinction for 2020. In recognition of their achievements, the Morning Sun will be publishing profiles of each Woman of Distinction.
Patricia Sullivan, DNP, NP-C, was born and raised in Altoona in Wilson County. Early in her career she stayed nearby, working at Wilson Medical Center in Neodesha. While Sullivan has primarily worked in the healthcare field, she was also the Neodesha Fire Department’s first female firefighter and one of the first female firefighters in Kansas.
“The local fire department in Neodesha, EMS and fire worked together, so if they needed help on both or whatever, I would volunteer to go out and help with wrecks as a first responder, and in order to do that I had to also get some education as a firefighter,” she said.
Though she was no longer actively working with the fire department, that background helped Sullivan when she found herself in the middle of the 2011 Joplin tornado’s aftermath.
“Everything clicked and you just get into that mindset and you just roll,” she said. “We didn’t even have a second thought and we were one of the first ones there, and we were in our truck, just used the back of our truck to take victims from the Stained Glass Theatre and the nursing home to Freeman Hospital.”
Sullivan moved to Pittsburg in 2009. In 2016, she became the first Pittsburg State University graduate to obtain a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree.
“Probably one of the things that I’m known for is more detective work with patients who have kind of fallen through the cracks and then I’m just trying to do whatever I can and research and to try to figure out what’s going on with them, just for a better quality of life,” Sullivan said.
Some of that work has involved polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a topic on which Sullivan’s research has been published and recognized nationally — and even internationally. At one point she had the opportunity to present her work to researchers from Denmark who had taken an interest in it.
“It started out really while I was working in emergency medicine, I would have these female patients coming in in their late middle ages with heart attacks or strokes or undiagnosed cancer and diabetes, and then I would just listen to their history and a lot of their symptoms started at puberty or after their first child,” Sullivan said. That led her to begin researching PCOS.
“So what I discovered is that it’s the number one endocrine disorder in women and it is misunderstood and it’s very complex,” she said. If not diagnosed early, “it’s like a domino effect” that can lead to other problems, she said.
Sullivan has long believed in a quote from Florence Nightingale that in nursing, unless progress is being made “every year, every month, every week, take my word for it we are going back,” she said.
“If anything I think that’s something encompasses all that I’ve been a part of up until now in my career,” she said.
When she heard she was selected as a 2020 Woman of Distinction, Sullivan “was honored and very humbled,” she said. The award was also a dream come true.
“Years ago, whenever I saw the calendars, and I remember Kay Quick had gotten it several years ago; she’s a nurse practitioner,” Sullivan said. “I just remember thinking ‘You know what, one of these days I’m going to be on that calendar,’ and I just felt fulfilled to look at that several years ago and then to have the phone call.”
Sullivan thanked her family for their support throughout her career that earned her the award, as they have “had to sacrifice time because emergencies don’t always happen from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, so they’ve given up weekends, holidays, nights, activities, whenever my pager would go off, that’s when duty would call,” she said.
“So I have to just honor them with this, and obviously my patients because of them trusting in me and knowing that I’m going to do whatever I can to help them along their journey and help them with their story as they go on with life.”