In the final week of American Heart Month, we wanted to shed light on the life of a pediatric cardiac surgeon so we turned to Dilip Sri Nath, MD, of Children’s National Heart Institute. Dr. Nath has extensive training in complex congenital cardiac surgery and has worked at Children’s National Health System since 2010. He is Assistant Professor of Congenital Heart Surgery at George Washington University. He also is a heart transplant researcher.Service spans from sunup to well past sundown
Dr. Nath starts his day shortly after dawn and often works 10-12 hours. He visits patients in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a 26-bed unit and one of the country’s largest units dedicated to the treatment of children with serious heart conditions. With about 530 cardiac surgical procedures a year, it’s one of the busiest centers on the East Coast.
During morning rounds at 7:30 am, Dr. Nath talks with fellow veteran surgeons as well as surgeons-in-training, cardiologists, and nurses to review patients’ progress.
“It’s the team spirit that we have that is ingrained in the culture,” Dr. Nath said.
Throughout the day, he crisscrosses the hospital between operating rooms, the Cardiac ICU, his office, and meeting rooms. What Dr. Nath enjoys most about his job is the chance he gets to treat some of the most complex conditions young cardiac patients face.
He counsels families if the child is scheduled to have a procedure in a few hours or days. He makes sure everyone understands the process, any potential risks, and arranges for families to meet as many people involved with the surgery as possible – including anesthesiologists, nurses who manage the surgical room, and other team members.
Dr. Nath also counsels families after surgeries, explaining things like what they can expect from wounds and how they heal, and how their child’s mood and disposition may change.
“I want to give them some comfort in the fact that these guys have a game plan. We do our best,” he said, referring to his colleagues standing in a nearby operating room.
And then before he leaves the hospital, Dr. Nath advises fellow researchers on the status of their projects including assessing the use of life-sized models of a child’s heart using the latest 3D printing technology available at Children’s National. Dr. Nath and his colleagues use the technology that helps doctors and patients understand complex organs and health problems. They utilize this in conjunction with the simulation room to help fellow healthcare providers who care for children post-operation in the Cardiac ICU to understand how to manage their treatment.
He also revisits patients in the Cardiac ICU to check on their progress and reconnects with colleagues, reviewing cases.