By Jen Russon
To ask Dr. Nirit Swerdloff what a day in the children’s ER is like is to understand both the joy and sorrow of delivering healthcare to the youngest and most vulnerable among us.
As an assistant medical director at Broward Health Coral Springs’ Children’s ER, Swerdloff has been on call for drowning accidents, burns, and ingestion of batteries, subsequently removed by pediatric specialists at her Level 2 facility. But it’s treating patients in a state that ranks first in drowning deaths of children aged 1- 4 that resonate most deeply with this physician.
“Every summer, I do a mental rain dance before my shift. Drowning cases are truly my PTSD,” said Swerdloff. “It happens more than you think.”
In April, Swerdloff’s safety lecture covered CPR knowledge, fences, and alarms around pools; simple things parents can do, like swim lessons and adult vigilance that often mean the difference between life and death.
The lecture touched on childproofing the entire home, warning about the seemingly innocuous danger of transferring a liquid household cleaner to an unmarked water bottle.
Some prevention tips were even less noticeable. For example, parents should not give ipecac or induce vomiting following a child’s ingestion of a toxin. Instead, pediatricians say the best thing a parent can do is facilitate emergency care just as soon as they can dial Poison Control or 911.
Swerdloff also emphasized coming to the children’s ER, even if the parent’s concerns seem silly or overblown.
“Better safe than sorry. No matter how strange the concern, I am trained to find a treatment solution if necessary. We are always glad to see parents come in and be proactive,” she said.
Even if the parent is sure a piece of loose change will come out in the child’s diaper, Swerdloff said it’s best to come in. She’s seen many odd cases since her career began decades ago, from contact with fuzzy caterpillars to the eating of potentially harmful flowers, seeds, and plants.
“Accidents do happen, but at the crux of what we do, prevention and education decrease the likelihood of serious injury,” said Swerdloff.
She added the real joy and beauty of the emergency medical team she works with is their training and expertise in pediatrics.
“Really, I’m treating two patients at the same time: the parent and the child.”
Swerdloff advocates children age 16 and up get the COVID-19 vaccine and welcome parents’ questions and concerns.
When it comes to taking your child to the emergency room, consider choosing one that has a dedicated children’s emergency room. Some ER’s can be “child friendly” but that does not mean they have a dedicated pediatric team like Broward Health Coral Springs. Adult medicine is very different than pediatric medicine and as a member of the American Board of Pediatrics, Swerdloff knows the difference all too well.
The difference is, her hospital offers highly specialized pediatric care meaning that when a child comes to the hospital they will be seen by pediatricians and specialized pediatric nurses in a dedicated children’s wing. The bedside manner is geared toward making children comfortable and less afraid, not easily found in other hospitals.
“I can examine the patient while he or she is sitting in the parent’s lap. I’ve been specifically trained to treat a child of any age, and so are each member of my team,” said Swerdloff.
Broward Health Coral Springs is the only children’s hospital ER in west Broward trained to minimize radiation exposure in diagnostic testing, lab draws, and IVs.
Child Life specialists are on call 24-7, creating a family-centered pediatric ER that helps parents participate in the decision-making process.
A welcoming pediatric waiting area and intake policy also identify Broward Health Coral Springs’ Children’s ER as family-friendly.
Pediatric nurses work in tandem with sub-specialists to treat injuries and risks across a broad spectrum.
“We do see a lot of our patients more than once and love to treat the child at every developmental stage. Sometimes accidents just happen so when they come to us we know that children need a special and unique kind of care, and that is the type of care that my team and I are trained for,” said Swerdloff.
To explore the many pediatric services provided by The Salah Foundation Children’s Hospitals at Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health Coral Springs or peruse their Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center for primary care, dental and social services.
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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