VOICES OF DAVIDSON
HOMETOWN HERO: Erin Carnes
A resident of Davidson, Erin Carnes works for Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County. She attended Wofford College and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Her husband is an internist with Tryon Medical Partners, and they have three daughters, Ella, 10; Audrey, 7; and Rosemary, 2.
Tell me about your day job:
I spend my days seeing patients in a variety of settings. We travel to homes for house calls, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. We also see patients in our outpatient palliative care clinic and inpatient unit.
In my practice, I focus on trying to optimize quality of life in patients with life limiting or terminal illnesses. Both hospice and palliative care utilize a team approach.
Our team includes nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors, and volunteers. We work in close collaboration not only to manage symptoms and minimize pain, but also to address the emotional and spiritual needs that are part of the end-of-life experience for patients, as well as their family.
How did you uncover this passion?
I initially started as an emergency physician. While I found this job both challenging and rewarding, I began to see that there were lots of patients out there with serious illness who were spending more time in the hospital than with their families.
Additionally, many of these patients had not discussed what their end of life wishes might be with their loved ones. The emergency room is an incredibly difficult place to have these discussions as stress levels are high and usually time is short.
It was then I discovered my passion for helping people optimize their quality of life. It is an honor to be able to be a part of someone’s life during what can be a very difficult time. Helping patients and families to outline what a peaceful end of life will look like for them, and to have the best quality of life possible when time is short, is incredibly rewarding.
What inspires you every day?
I am inspired every day by my patients and their families. They allow me into their lives at their most vulnerable and allow me to have tough conversations with them.
During this current COVID 19 pandemic I am also incredibly inspired by all of the front line workers like my friend, Melora Driver, who keep showing up every day for their patients.
What are your challenges and speed bumps along the way?
Right now, the biggest challenges have been navigating all of the changes that come with the current COVID 19 pandemic. Recommendations are constantly changing, and we are trying our best to adjust on the fly to make sure we are keeping our patients safe, while also providing the best care.
Currently, we maximize our PPE when visiting patients in person or communicating via telemedicine. This does provide safety for our patients and ourselves, but it can be difficult, especially in my line of work, to convey the emotions you might be feeling through a mask and goggles or the computer. Touch is also such a big part of my work and not being able to give a hug or hold a hand is difficult.
Secrets to staying motivated and positive?
It is just putting one step in front of the other. We all have our good days and bad days and we just keep moving forward and trying to do our best. There is a light at the end of this tunnel and the only way is through it. I try to focus on the benefits of my work, the extra time spent with my husband and kids, and finding the positive parts of each day.
How can Davidson residents best support you?
By continuing to support the community and following local guidelines. Wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing protects those around you. My patients are some of the most vulnerable and following these guidelines helps to keep them safe.
Erin and her husband met in medical school, later moving to Winston Salem for residency in Emergency Medicine. In 2011 the couple relocated to Davidson, where Erin initially worked in the ER at CMC Northeast and later in hospice and palliative care.
Andrea Nordstrom Caughey
Andrea Nordstrom Caughey is a magazine editor and lifelong writer who hit the jackpot moving to Davidson from California.