Former DePaul basketball players working at the same hospital helping the fight against COVID-19


DePaulia File

Former DePaul guard Brooke Schulte guards a Butler player on January 14, 2017.

When former DePaul women’s basketball player Brooke Schulte was waiting to have her interview with Northwestern Memorial Hospital back in December, she received a text message from a former DePaul men’s basketball player — Peter Ryckbosch — who had already been working at the same hospital in the emergency room that they had an opening. 

“I had initially applied for the position in the emergency department and I wasn’t aware at the time that Peter was working there,” Schulte said. “His mom, [DePaul women’s basketball assistant coach Lisa] Ryckbosch, was my coach at the time, had mentioned he just started there and was in the emergency department. And I was like ‘that’s so cool, I’m about to interview there.’ On that same morning, Peter had shot me a text and was just like ‘hey, they are still hiring, if you are interested, in the emergency department.’ And I kind of laughed because I was in the manager’s office just about to go do my interview.”

Ryckbosch, 26, started working at the hospital back in October, while Schulte, also 26, got the same job two months later. Ever since then, the two have been working together to treat the new influx of coronavirus patients on a daily basis. 

“Being able to work with someone you know, you already have a rapport with and a friendship with makes it a little bit more familiar,” Schulte said. “Going on to the floor, all the coworkers have embraced anybody that’s new with open arms and it definitely feels like a family at Northwestern in the emergency department. But having Peter there just builds this existing bond I already had with him. Knowing that I’m able to see him on days I work and have a friend there that I’ve known since 2012, it makes the workplace more fun and I’m able to have a friend there by my side.”

Both Ryckbosch and Schulte started their DePaul basketball careers in 2012, but had different paths in their playing days. For Schulte, her freshman year was cut short with a torn ACL after seven games. 

But she still went on to have a successful basketball career at the school. After averaging 8.6 points per game her junior year, Schulte raised her scoring to 20.8 points per game a year later and was named both the Big East Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year at the end of the season.

“She never wanted to step on anyone’s toes but when she had to score, she scored,” DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno said. “She became the Big East Player of the Year because her teammate got hurt. It’s unbelievable to go from eight points a game to 20 points a game because your teammates got hurt.”

Ryckbosch was also hampered by injuries during his DePaul career, with two knee injuries forcing him to miss the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons. But his time off the court while rehabbing his knee injuries also opened his eyes to a potential career after college, being a nurse. 

“It helps with empathy,” Ryckbosch said. “I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the issues patients are dealing with. I had a lot more orthopedic issues, not necessarily cardiovascular or respiratory issues, which is what our patients are dealing with. But having been in those same shoes of having surgeries and being in the hospital, I kind of know what it’s like to have that feeling that this person is in one of the worst days of their life and I’m there to take care of them on that day.”

Former DePaul men’s basketball player Peter Ryckbosch goes up for a rebound against Butler on March 6, 2017. (Blake Schlin/The DePaulia)

With the coronavirus outbreak, Northwestern hospital has adjusted its emergency room to deal with new cases and make sure patients get treated. Since the start of May, however, Schulte and Ryckbosch have also changed their schedules by working night shifts in the hospital. 

“So, in the emergency room, we always have an opportunity to pick up extra hours if we want, but it was never required,” Ryckbosch said. “We typically have three 12‐an‐half-hour shifts a week. I don’t really see anyone outside of work moving around among friends. It’s definitely a different situation where before all of this happened if I had three days off I would get pretty restless, but now I can have three days off and not be able to do anything. I really feel taking these steps is the best for Chicago, Illinois, the country and healthcare workers because if we are overwhelmed with patients, we are putting ourselves at risk more.”

While Illinois now ranks third in cases and deaths in the country, both Schulte and Ryckbosch give credit to their hospital for making sure they have the necessary equipment to treat COVID-19 patients — which includes having enough beds and ventilators available for patients, and having enough protective equipment for the nurses and doctors.  

“In handling the coronavirus pandemic and handling the amount of people that have been coming in, Northwestern Memorial Hospital has been doing a phenomenal job at providing the proper equipment — ventilators — and just kind of managing the protocols that we go through,” Schulte said. “Each and every day we get updates on emails saying what we are doing to make sure we can serve people, and do our best to enable their safety and your safety. We are constantly being talked to by the doctors and by the staff, informing us that they are doing all they can to keep us safe and patients safe. I can’t give them enough praise for going above and beyond for making sure we as nurses, doctors and hospital staff feel safe.”

Even though Northwestern Memorial Hospital has been able to take care of their patients and make sure they have enough beds and ventilators available, both give credit to Illinois’ stay-at-home order in making sure the state didn’t have a similar outbreak to the one in New York.

But Schulte and Ryckbosch still want people to follow all the guidelines to make sure they are protecting themselves and the people they come in contact with. 

“We can’t afford to ignore this or pretend it will all be okay, it’s important that we have people still work and have jobs, but we can’t be reckless,” Ryckbosch said. “We have to be able to do this slowly, and be patient with our government, each other and ourselves because we want to keep everyone safe — we want to keep each other safe. Chicago hasn’t had this surge in patients where it has been difficult to take care of them. We’ve had a lot of cases and a lot of deaths, but it could be much worse. If we are able to keep going through this stay-at-home order, maybe we can get through this and come out the other side better if we are able to stay the course.”