The Trauma Guy: Luis DeRosa, RN, EMT
BS, Nursing, Class of 2009
Part catharsis and part inspiration, DeRosa’s social media presence illustrates the qualities that serve him well as a trauma nurse—quick thinking, a team-oriented focus, a sense of humor and humility, and compassion.
There are moments when Luis DeRosa feels made for his job as a Level 1 Trauma Nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. A former patient will recognize him on the street and say, “Hey, you took care of me!” Or a family member of a critical patient will accept his small acts of compassion—change for the soda machine or one of the many varieties of cell phone chargers he stores in his locker in case someone needs one. Most often, it’s during the adrenalin-filled instant when he and his team step in to stabilize a patient with life-threatening injuries.
Today, he sees many such patients working as part of Ryder’s Trauma Resuscitation Unit. But DeRosa was not always certain of his career path. He still recalls his first day in the ER, thirteen years ago, when he found himself questioning his fitness for emergency medicine. While still an undergraduate nursing student at Barry, DeRosa earned his EMT license (also with Barry), which allowed him to serve as a patient-care technician. On day one of the job, he witnessed a surgeon performing an abdominal washout, an invasive procedure that stunned DeRosa. “I almost passed out,” he said. He finished his shift but went home feeling demoralized. “I told my mom, ‘I don’t think this is for me.’”
Now a leader at one of the nation’s top trauma centers, DeRosa recalls his initial trepidation with empathy for his younger self. He recognizes that early experience as a test of his passion and fortitude. “I don’t like to give up,” he says. Determination runs in his family. DeRosa’s older sister, who died in 2017 after a long battle with congenital muscular dystrophy, used to tell him, “Never give up. Always know where you’re going.” He took her motto to heart, continued working as a patient-care technician, and quickly realized his talent for critical-care nursing. “Everything I was learning at Barry was exciting, and I was able to apply that knowledge to real patients as a tech,” he says.
Essentially, he never looked back. After graduating from Barry in 2009, he continued to hone his skills as a trauma nurse, working in the Ryder Trauma Center’s ICU and specializing in burn care. He also joined the Southern Unit of the National Disaster Response Team, deploying to sites of natural and manmade disasters whenever he is called. As a key member of the trauma team at Ryder, the facility chosen by the U.S. Army as pre-deployment training grounds for all Forward Surgical Teams, he instructs Army personnel in trauma response.
As he built his career, DeRosa began sharing his experiences as a trauma nurse via social media. His Instagram handle, @thetraumaguy, has more than 136K followers, a number that surprises him. “My main goal is to reach the person who is outside looking in,” he says. “I want to give a snapshot of what it’s like.” Part catharsis and part inspiration, DeRosa’s social media presence illustrates the qualities that serve him well as a trauma nurse—quick thinking, a team-oriented focus, a sense of humor and humility, and compassion. He calls himself and his fellow team members “Trauma Ninjas,” a term that tends to motivate future trauma nurses when he speaks at colleges and universities, but he is committed to depicting the realities of his profession. “It’s a weird dichotomy,” he says. “In a way my job is fun. At the same time, I’m meeting people in the worst days of their lives.”
For all his accomplishments and all the patients he’s treated, DeRosa has not stopped exploring the ways he can help others in critical situations. He considers his time at Barry among his most informative years and aims to return for graduate school. He is particularly interested in the research arm of nursing and public health. “All nurses who advance in their experience begin to notice patterns,” he says. “For example, why are there always accidents on this one corner?” Learning how to analyze data that could help prevent traumatic injury is just one aspect of research that excites him. “Deep inside,” he says, “I want to make an impact.”