Why House Calls by Bike Are Practical for this Nurse Practitioner

Dwayne Dobschuetz. Photo: John Greenfield
Dwayne Dobschuetz. Photo: John Greenfield

Northwestern Medicine nurse practitioner Dwayne Dobschuetz, 70, not only makes house calls, he does them via a big, purple Northwestern-branded cruiser bike, racking up 15-20 miles a day. I buttonholed him this afternoon by the Northwestern medical campus in Streeterville to ask about the perks of making his rounds on two wheels.

John Greenfield: Why are you riding this purple bike?

Dwayne Dobschuetz: I’m riding it so that I can go see patients at their homes, regardless of where their homes are. I see, right now, about 40 or 50 patients on a somewhat regular basis, and they’re confined to their homes for one reason or another.

JG: Why do you use a bicycle for work?

DD: Well, most of them are in what we call NORCs, naturally occurring retirement communities. But the seniors that I see don’t want to be known as living in a retirement facility, so we call them residential communities. So they might live on the 25th floor or the 33rd floor, but they’re, in essence, really isolated and have a difficulty even just getting over here for an appointment.

JG: Is there something about bicycling that makes it a practical way to do these visits?

DD: The couple of times that I’ve driven my car, it’s cost me fifty bucks in parking. It’s hard to find a spot, particularly downtown. And if you go down Chicago Avenue right now it will be bumper-to-bumper, but there will be a clear lane to ride your bike. I find with the combination of the bike and public transportation I can get to about anywhere I want to go.

JG: You sometimes use the CTA plus your bike to get places?

DD: Yes, for example, I went to Chatham, so I rode the Red Line down to 87th, and then I rode my bike over to a residential community near 85th and Cottage Grove.

JG: Is that the most distant visit you’ve done?

DD: I’ve gone the opposite way, I’ve gone to Harlem on the Blue Line to see someone out there, so the western edge of the city. I live north, so I see patients around the Howard ‘L’ stop.

JG: How did you get the purple bike?

DD: That came because I found it easier to go on my own personal bicycle than to drive a car. And my boss took a picture of me and happened to show it to a [Northwestern public relations] person, and their response was, “Do you think he would ride a purple bicycle?”

So they gave me this bike, and they’ve now bought nine more to give away as promotions at our annual meetings. They’re going to have a drawing – there’s two or three thousand people that work here.

But I’ve had people all over see me on this thing and ask me questions about it. And it also gives me a chance to talk about our program with geriatrics, reaching out to patients that are older than 65. The bike serves as a conversation piece.

JG: So you find this particular bike to be pretty comfortable and practical to get around?

DD: Yeah, when they gave it to me I laughed and I thought, this is the bike that I got when I was 14. It’s got big tires, it’s comfortable to ride, and that’s about all that was available in the early ‘60s. So it’s been fun.