Q&A with Eugene Fordyce, Jr., Total Ventilation Clinical Specialist for Philips Healthcare and Volunteer in the Haiti Relief Effort
Eugene Fordyce, Jr., RCP, RRT, is a Total Ventilation Clinical Specialist. He works in the Hospital Respiratory Care division at Philips Healthcare, located in Carlsbad, California. Eugene is a Respiratory Care Practitioner and Registered Respiratory Therapist. He has been Respiratory Clinical Coordinator for The Washington Hospital in Washington, Pennsylvania, for six years and adjunct clinical instructor for the respiratory program in Pittsburgh, as well. He has worked at UPMC in Pittsburgh Level 1 trauma and as a Total Ventilation Clinical Specialist for more than five years for Philips Respironics. Eugene recently returned from Haiti, working as a part of Philips’ major relief effort for earthquake victims.
Q: What was it that motivated you to become a respiratory therapist?
A: I have asthma and I can relate to patients that have pulmonary problems. I enjoy helping people.
Q: What do you specialize in at Philips Respironics?
A: I work for Philips Respironics in the Hospital Respiratory Care division, specializing in invasive ventilation, noninvasive ventilation, monitoring, and mask interface.
Q: What’s it like working at Philips?
A: It is great to work here. Philips Respironics is always supporting their customers and provides on-going clinical training and CEUs.
I started here a little more than five years ago. I had used Respironics products at the hospital that I worked at and I was very familiar with the application.
Q: What is your role?
A: I offer training on our products. I also work with application set-up and ongoing education. I participate in doctor rounds in the critical care units. In addition, I lecture at various colleges and respiratory conferences. Plus, I do advanced monitoring training labs.
Q: You just returned from Haiti recently. Can you tell me a little bit about your trip?
A: It was very sad to see the devastation of the earthquake. I was able to be part of a healthcare team that transformed a 70-bed hospital into a 400-bed facility with six operating rooms, PACU, PRE/OP, CCU, and establish a tent city. This hospital that was transformed is located in Milot, Haiti, approximately 158 miles north of Port au Prince.
Q: Were you proud to work for a company that provided Haiti with relief?
A: Yes, my company has made a huge impact in Haiti. They have provided a large amount of medical equipment. We set up and supported Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti.
Being part of Philips Respironics makes me proud with all of the efforts to transform a hospital from 70-bed to more than a 400-bed facility with all new equipment from monitors, EKGs, fetal monitors, imaging equipment, ultrasound, noninvasive and invasive ventilators, as well as all of the soft goods and accessories to operate the equipment.
Q: How did you decide to get involved?
A: I received a call from my regional manager and I was asked if I would be interested in volunteering to go to Haiti. Philips Respironics sent ventilators. The doctors at the Hôpital Sacré Coeur, located in Milot, Haiti, at that time, were mostly orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons with very limited ventilator knowledge. My job was to set up equipment, train American and Haitian physicians, manage ventilators, and treat patients. I wanted to make a difference, so I jumped at the chance.
Q: What kind of equipment, manpower, and supplies did your team provide to the Haitians?
A: Philips donated about $1.5 million worth of medical equipment to the Haitian relief effort. We sent a variety of equipment, including mobile X-ray units, ultrasound machines, cardiographs, patient monitoring equipment, ventilators, and defibrillators.
Philips also worked with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh UPMC to provide pacifiers and dolls to children displaced from their orphanage in Haiti. We also sent staff down to Haiti to help train on the equipment.
Q: What was it like to introduce cutting-edge, modern technology to the hospital in Haiti?
A: It was exciting and challenging at the same time. They had no ventilators at Hôpital Sacré Coeur prior to the earthquake and I was able to set up and manage the first intubated patient in Northern Haiti.
Dr. Previl is the Haitian medical director. I asked him how they managed patients with respiratory failure in the past and he stated that the patients died.
That statement really opened my eyes to see how fortunate we are in the United States with the technology and healthcare. They were amazed to see how these patients turned and came off the vent after the underlying problem was resolved. The Philips equipment—from ventilators, monitors, as well as X-rays to ultrasound—has turned a hospital that had very little technology to a state-of-the-art hospital.
Q: Did you face any challenges in Haiti?
A: The training of invasive and noninvasive ventilator management was challenging in that the Haitian doctors, nurses, and anesthesia specialists spoke French. I had to have an interpreter with me most of the time. We also had the ventilators set up in English with French Quick reference guides for the Haitian healthcare workers.
Managing the ventilators off of H cylinders was challenging. I was able to use higher peep levels and lower Fio2 to extend the tank duration. It brought me back to the basics of respiratory care and calculating tank duration. Patient assessment was critical with very limited access to labs, etc. No portable suction made airway management challenging in the field. There were six operating rooms established along with Pre-Op, OP, PACU, Critical Care Unit, and a pediatric ward.
Across the road from the hospital, a banana field was cleared and a triage unit and tent city was established to house the 60 to 100 patients per day that were flown in from Port au Prince for medical treatment—most with crush injuries.
Q: What would you like others to know about the devastation efforts in Haiti?
A: The Crudem organization that operates the facility did a wonderful job. With the volunteers from the doctors to therapists and nurses, they have really made a huge difference. Most of the injuries were crush injuries and a lot of these patients had not been treated for days.
Several of the injuries had major infections and many of the patients’ limbs had to be amputated. Sepsis was a big problem with these patients. With these types of injuries, there is going to be a huge need for ongoing wound care nurses, physical therapy, and other rehabilitation type healthcare workers. Most doctors and healthcare teams are on a weekly rotation. You can check out their web site at www.crudem.org. They are a dedicated organization that is making a huge difference in Haiti.
Q: What do you like most about your job as a respiratory therapist?
A: I like having the chance to help make a difference in people’s lives. I enjoy being a part of a team that makes a huge positive impact in people’s lives. Though travel and extended trips away from home can be challenging at times.
Q: How has respiratory therapy changed?
A: Respiratory therapy has changed drastically in recent years. New technology has evolved and this has changed the way medicine is practiced. Respiratory-driven protocols have made a positive impact on patient care.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering the field of respiratory care?
A: Respiratory care is going to be needed for decades to come and this is a growing field that can provide opportunities in many different areas.
It’s important to be open-minded since everyday is a learning experience.
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