Brooke Schulte and Peter Ryckbosch don’t feel like heroes.
“I'm just doing my job that I was hired to do,” said 26-year old Schulte.
“It’s hard for me to describe what I'm feeling when people call me a hero because I don't feel that way,” echoed Pyckbosch, also 26.
Day in and day out they don blue scrubs as they head to the Emergency Department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They are frontline nurses in a pandemic dealing with not only the emergency cases that occur daily, but also COVID-19 patients.
“We are definitely thrown out of our normal routines, and that's saying a lot because in the emergency department you see all sorts of kind of diseases and processes," Schulte said, "and being able to not know what to expect next when someone with COVID walks in the door,” brings even more uncertainty.
She began her nursing career in December. Ryckbosch began in October.
“I’m able to text Peter after a hard shift and just vent and let him know, like, what I went through that day. It's hard to do, to family members or roommates or significant others, because they don't have the medical background,” Schulte said.
The two have been friends since 2012. That’s when each arrived on the campus of DePaul University, not only to study, but to wear a different kind of blue uniform, playing college basketball.
Schulte was an honorable mention All-American and a Big East Player of the Year during her playing days.
Rychbosch was an academic All-American whose college career was hampered by injuries. But bad knees brought him in contact with great nurses.
“And he would talk about nursing and how he kind of wanted to do that,” said Schulte. Soon she began to think about nursing as well.
In basketball, that’s called an assist.
“Our primary offensive goal every year is to lead the nation in assists,” said Doug Bruno, the long-time women’s basketball coach at DePaul, whose “Dougisms” became important lessons for players.
“And he would explain that in a season after a big win or a hard loss, that you can't just let yourself go to a dark place or let yourself get so hyped up on that high,” Schulte recalls.
Both Ryckbosch and Schulte said basketball gave them the playbook for what they do now.
“You really learn how to handle stress,” Ryckbosch said. “That's kind of something I've been able to carry over into nursing quite well.”
Watching patients enter the emergency department alone due to restrictions has proven to be the biggest challenge for Schulte.
“And not having that loved one, or familiar person next to you to hold your hand through it all and being thrown into a group of strangers that you have to trust with your life is something that is like a major low,” she said.
Once accustomed to playing before cheering crowds, today both are uncomfortable with the cheering so focused on health care workers.
Both cite others on the front lines: grocery store employees, postal workers and hospital cleaning staff, among those deserving equal credit.
“We ask our players to come to work every day to be concerned about achievement and not celebrity, said Bruno.
Lessons learned on the court and practiced in the emergency room.
Assists, after all, says Bruno, pave the path to victory.
Note: Both Marin and Moseley teach at DePaul but did not have either Schulte or Ryckbosch in class, and are not affiliated with the Athletics Department.