For Luis Cruz, BS, RRT-NPS, RPFT, ACCS, each day offers thousands of opportunities to make a difference in his patients’ lives.
“There are 16 breaths per minute. Each of those breaths could go differently. In that space is a chance for something to go wrong, or to go right,” Cruz said.
This immense responsibility is one of the reasons Cruz, a respiratory therapist at Bayhealth’s Kent General Hospital, pushed himself to earn the National Board of Respiratory Care’s newest credential, the Adult Critical Care Specialty certification. Launched in July 2012, this examination aims to improve the quality of care for adults receiving treatment for life-threatening injuries and illnesses, such as accidents, infections, surgical complications, or severe breathing problems.
Cruz was the first Delaware respiratory therapist to pass the exam, and one of the first 200 in the country to take it.
“We are very proud of Luis,” commented Bayhealth Director of Respiratory Care and Neurodiagnostics Terry Thompson, RRT. “He is extremely dedicated to his patients and to his work. When natural disasters strike, he is here early with his bags packed, ready to camp out in the hospital.”
Cruz, who has a background in biology and chemistry, came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1999 and began his career at Bayhealth. While a typical day’s schedule for Cruz will include patients from the neonatal unit through geriatrics, his area of special interest is COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This disease includes two main conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both can cause coughing and shortness of breath, and both worsen over time.
Currently the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, COPD interests Cruz because of the patient population he serves at Bayhealth. He estimates that 19% of discharges are COPD patients, a large number for the service area. These statistics inspire Cruz to increase his expertise in the COPD arena.
In addition, Cruz is one of 62 certified Neonatal Pediatric Specialists in Delaware. In this role, he provides breathing support to sick or premature babies, who may need a ventilator to help their lungs take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Because of the long-term risks involved with neonatal mechanical ventilation, therapists must closely monitor infants and collaborate with the neonatal care team.
Despite his impressive credentials, Cruz emphasizes the importance of teamwork: “No matter how well we plan our day, we encounter unexpected situations where we must adjust, modify, and accommodate so that we can deliver the right care, at the right time, to our patients,” he said. “We are given a great deal of responsibility here at Bayhealth, and we must constantly seek knowledge so we can make decisions together.”
Cruz is a member of the American Association of Respiratory Care; the Delaware Society of Respiratory Care; and the World COPD Coalition; and an allied health member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American College of Chest Physicians.