Eileen Lynch | February 5, 2017
In the American health care system, the elderly can often be shortchanged.
Dr. Nick Schneeman ’80 is convinced that a typical office visit or a trip to the emergency room is simply not enough to address the complex medical issues they face.
So after practicing family medicine for 13 years, Schneeman took a chance and decided to try something new.
In 2003, he persuaded his partners in St. Paul, Minnesota, to let him start a geriatric practice called Genevive within their physicians group.
“It was me, one nurse practitioner, and a nurse,” Schneeman said. “They gave me one year to turn it into a success.”
Schneeman credits the skills he gained as a sociology major at Notre Dame with helping him confront the challenge.
“Having that broad-based liberal arts foundation was a huge advantage,” he said. “It has let me see medicine and health systems in a way that maybe my colleagues didn’t. I don’t think I would have had the ability to rise above the fray and see the whole system without it.”
The power of storytelling
Schneeman developed a model to provide compassionate and effective care for the frail elderly while also running his business successfully. From humble beginnings, the practice has flourished.
“We now have 15 doctors, 22 nurse practitioners, 60 nurses, and 10 social workers,” he said. “We take care of over 5,000 frail, elderly people. We’re doing really good things for the community.
Our people are paid well, and we’re actually making money, too.”
Schneeman approaches health care for the elderly with an eye for the rounded experience of the patient. Storytelling is a fundamental part of his practice, helping him understand medical issues in a more holistic context.
“Patients and their caregivers need to communicate more than symptoms to their doctors,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Start with the last time your mom was healthy and bring me to today.’ For some it was 12 years ago — for others, three months.”