Innovative Program Helps Seniors
Ranked among the highest top ten nationally by U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern Medicine Geriatrics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital continues to seek innovative ways to serve this growing population, yet one thing remains the same: a commitment to compassionate, patients-first care.
Among those on the team, Dwayne Dobschuetz, APN, MSN, RN, is at a point in his career where everything has culminated to create the “dream job.”
With careers in sales under his belt, Dwayne returned to nursing 30 years ago. Most of those years were spent delivering care in the Emergency Department (ED). Now, you can find him making house calls in Chicago, seeing several patients a day.
And Dwayne is a senior himself. Yet at 70 years old, he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Reducing Hospital Admissions
Five years ago, while working in the ED, Dwayne joined an initiative referred to as the GEDI (Geriatric Emergency Department Initiative) program. The program features a special senior-friendly ED in a quieter area of the hospital, with features such as natural lighting and non-slip floors. Specially trained geriatric nurses like Dwayne — GEDI nurses — meet with patients to address needs specific to the geriatric population.
“We assess the patients and help guide them through the healthcare system. After they leave, we follow up to see how they are doing. Sometimes, I’d investigate and offer to see them where they lived,” says Dwayne. There, he was able to better identify the root of the problem to better assist patients.
Since its inception, the GEDI program has successfully reduced unnecessary hospital admissions by 33 percent.
Comforting Care, Right at Home
Dwayne’s level of care was quickly noticed, and the Section Chief of Geriatrics Lee Lindquist, MD, MPH, MBA, created a new role for him as part of the expansion of the Northwestern Medicine Home Care program. For the past year, Dwayne has been seeing patients in their homes to deliver care for illness, injury and chronic conditions.
“I assess the safety of their environment and suggest changes. We’ll go over medicines, and I’ll work with care managers to facilitate and provide resources,” he says. No matter what the task, Dwayne is eager to assist.
In order to meet the unique demands of the urban setting, Dwayne opts for a unique mode of transportation — his purple Northwestern Medicine bike. “I’ll go wherever I’m needed and have even taken my bike on the train,” he says.
Preparing for the Future
Since the implementation of his role, the network continues to evolve. Dwayne receives referrals from physicians, local care managers and several social workers, creating a comprehensive network to address geriatric needs. The team works to generate innovative solutions to allow seniors to meet their individual goals and, moreover, stay at home safely.
Additionally, the program gives caregivers the support and tools they need to be successful. Having experienced Alzheimer’s firsthand with his own mother, Dwayne says that experience shaped him as a caretaker and allows him to empathize with what families are going through. “It’s made me acutely aware of how important education and learning all you can is. Whatever the diagnosis, you should know what you can do to support your loved one,” says Dwayne.
One of Dwayne’s first patients with Alzheimer’s couldn’t make office appointments because just getting ready to leave the house was such a struggle. Dwayne says, “I sat with her husband and answered all his questions. It was a great visit, and I cared for her until she transitioned to hospice care.”
The Northwestern Medicine Geriatric Program doesn’t just focus on immediate healthcare needs. The team can also help provide tools and resources to prepare for the future. A recent grant allowed for the creation of planyourlifespan.org, which puts a focus on long-term planning.
Part of the Family
Dwayne says he thinks of his patients like family, and he even keeps pictures of some of them on his desk to help remind him how important it is for them to stay at home. “I wake up thinking about who I am going to see that day and what their needs are,” he explains. “I’m here to help them navigate through uncertain times.”
Dwayne is moved by the care patients receive in the Northwestern Medicine Geriatrics Program, saying that patients are sometimes greeted with hugs from the care team. “It doesn’t matter what your job title is,” he notes. “Everyone here cares about the patients.”
Learn more about Northwestern Medicine Geriatrics.