As a father of five, Summit Medical Center anesthesiologist Matt Swan, MD, is sympathetic to the stress and anxiety every parent experiences when their child is about to be taken to surgery. That is why he makes a point of spending extra time with the families of his littlest patients prior to their procedures.
Often Dr. Swan will greet the young child with a toy, and he has no reservations about being a little silly. “Essentially I’m just making a fool of myself,” he said, “distracting them and disarming them, just helping them feel at ease.”
His technique not only puts the kids at ease, it also helps calm and reassure their parents. “I let them see that I’m a dad, and I enjoy what I’m doing.”
A critical moment in the pre-op process is the transition from the parents’ arms to his. “You never know how that is going to go,” he said, “but by and large, the kids transition well and make it to the OR calm and comfortable.”
During a recent case, as he prepared to take two-year-old Olivia to the OR, she quickly reached back and cried for her parents. While he let her give them a few more hugs and kisses, Dr. Swan started playing a “Phineas and Ferb” video on his mobile phone, capturing Olivia’s attention and allowing him to carry her back to the OR.
In the OR, Dr. Swan might draw a comical face on the ventilator bag and let the child use it as a mini punching bag, or he’ll have the patient help anesthetize a stuffed animal—whatever it takes to make the experience less traumatic.
“Especially with the little kids, they have a lifetime ahead of them of dealing with physicians, and you don’t want to make this experience a bad one,” he said.
As Chief Resident at University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, Dr. Swan worked at the Children’s Hospital and learned from two pediatric anesthesiologists. He said they recognized in him the temperament required to work with small children, and then taught him the skills required to care for pediatric patients.
He acquired more pediatric experience working in a Shriner’s hospital and also during a medical mission at Hospital de la Familia in Guatemala. But he said he also learns every day from his own children.
“They teach me patience and calmness,” he said. “If I get upset, they get upset.” He said that even when he has a lot running through his mind preparing for a patient’s procedure, he is always sure to put on a calm face. “That is what I learned from my children.”
Dr. Swan cares for patients of all ages at Summit Medical Center in Casper, Wyo., where physicians specialize in ear, nose and throat, orthopedics, plastic surgery, gastroenterology, general surgery and more. To learn more about the services and specialties offered at Summit Medical Center, visit wysmc2.wpengine.com or call the facility 307-232-6600.