Nina Deutsch and Jon Swink's Story
As part of the Children’s Cardiac Anesthesiology team, Nina Deutsch, MD, Director of Cardiac Anesthesiology, and Jonathan Swink, Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant, are responsible for providing care for patients with cardiac diseases who are undergoing invasive procedures, like surgery, that require anesthesia. Their work in the cardiac catheterization lab enables them to manage the entire anesthetic process for our patients – from induction of the medicine to put the child to sleep, to the maintenance of anesthesia that keeps them asleep, stable and safe and through the awakening process after a procedure.
As students of anesthesiology, Dr. Deutsch and Jonathan also are interested in the interaction of pharmacology with patients’ physiology. “I’ve always been intrigued by the interaction of the medication administered and our physiology. Administration of one medication can save a kids life,” Jonathan says.
For Dr. Deutsch, her decision to specialize in anesthesiology also stemmed from interest in the collaboration between pharmacology and physiology, as well as the appeal of being involved with surgical procedures. “I loved working in the operating room as a medical student, but never saw myself as a surgeon. It was a very easy choice for me once I discovered the best of both worlds in anesthesia,” she says.
Making a Difference to Our Tiniest Hearts
Dr. Deutsch and Jonathan are both passionate about providing care to children and consider it an honor to be a part of a team that plays such a crucial role in ensuring their safety during procedures. For Jonathan, pediatric care wasn’t on his radar until he was required to perform a pediatric rotation to graduate as an anesthesiology assistant. “I was nervous about the pressure and the responsibility that came with taking care of someone’s child, but I fell in love during my rotation at Children’s National, and this is where I plan to stay,” Jonathan says. “I don’t know what line of work could be more rewarding than one that involves taking care of kids.”
“Some of our patients are incredibly complex,” Dr. Deutsch says. “It’s the combined effort of an extremely dedicated team working so well together that makes my job so interesting and rewarding.” Additionally, Dr. Deutsch believes that being an anesthesiologist in the cardiac catheterization lab allows the team to bond with their patients and families. “Unlike a lot of anesthesiologists, we’re able to see the children we treat grow up. I don’t think that typically happens in the adult anesthesia world. I enjoy helping patients along the whole spectrum of care, especially working with the fetal cardiology team. We’re able to help kids from the second they’re born.”
Some of the team’s best experiences stem from some of the worst situations. Jonathan recalls a time where a patient had an expected emergency during a procedure, and after a period of resuscitation, the care team’s knowledge and determination allowed the patient to come through the procedure, and they are still healthy and thriving today. “Those are our most rewarding and best days. We are here to handle everything from routine care to emergencies. Whatever the situation calls for, we are ready to help,” Jonathan says.
Subspecialty training in pediatrics and heart disease is critical to being prepared for the unexpected. “It’s important to have people who have been trained well to be a part of the team, that way no matter the situation someone is always there who is really competent, has those special skills we require, and understands the unique aspects of cardiac disease and anesthesia,” Dr. Deutsch says.
Through research projects and studies, Dr. Deutsch is looking for different methods to anesthetize patients in ways that reduce potential harm. “These days, anesthesia is unbelievably safe, but even putting healthy children under can cause unforeseen physiological effects. Adding cardiovascular diseases to the mix makes things even more complex,” Dr. Deutsch says.
“I always want to be that person who can be relied upon no matter the situation and who is always prepared,” Jonathan says. “I’m so thankful for Dr. Deutsch and the team for believing in me and supporting me throughout my career at Children’s.”
Dr. Deutsch agreed, saying “It truly is a team effort. The care we provide to our patients takes everyone – Cardiovascular Surgery, the Cardiac ICU and countless others – and it’s an amazing thing when we can come together and help these children.”