Offering hope to those in need: Physician assistant grad serves patients in critical care

The term “code blue” technically denotes a medical emergency, but in most cases, it means that a patient's heart has stopped beating and he or she requires immediate resuscitative efforts.

New to the job as a physician assistant intensivist in the intensive care unit (ICU), Trevecca alumnus Erin Hasty Goodwin (’17) knows how to react in a code blue situation.

Making rounds one evening at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., Goodwin received a code blue call. She was the first medical professional to arrive and had to act fast.

“I went in, took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and told myself, ‘You’ve trained for this and are prepared,’” Goodwin recalled.

She quickly intubated the patient to establish an effective airway—placing a breathing tube down the patient’s throat—and began CPR.

Goodwin and her team administered a cycle of medications, while continually checking for a pulse. Every three minutes, they would check the patient’s heart rhythm to determine if shocking the patient was necessary.

Over and over, they continued the sequence in an attempt to regain a heartbeat. Despite the team’s best efforts that evening, the patient was unable to be revived.

“When we call time of death, we take a moment to pray and take a moment of silence where we recite a phrase that centers on the gratitude we had [in serving] that patient and acknowledge they were a loved person,” Goodwin said.

A foundation of expertise and compassion

Goodwin graduated from Trevecca’s physician assistant (PA) program in 2017 followed by a residency where she trained in critical care at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Goodwin says residency is rare for a PA, but the experience helped hone her skills in critical care.

“The [Trevecca] staff were supportive in helping me achieve the goal of getting into a highly competitive residency program,” Goodwin added. “I was able to take the foundation they gave me to the next level.”

Trevecca’s PA program, founded in 1976, is the oldest program in the state with more than 1,000 graduates to date. A total of 27 months, the program consists of a 15-month didactic (classroom) phase and a 12-month clinical phase. At completion, students earn a Master of Science in Medicine (MSM).

During her time in the program, Goodwin excelled as a student, garnering the PA Student of the Year Award in 2017. The award is recognized through the Tennessee Academy of Physician Assistants, the only statewide association representing the educational and professional interests of Tennessee PAs.

It’s no surprise to Godwin’s professors that she has excelled in her field.

“Erin was a wonderful student with a gift of being relational with people,” said Tasha Adams, assistant professor in the PA program. “She has compassion and a sweet soul with a knack for being great with patients and their families.”

As a physician assistant intensivist, Goodwin primarily deals with patients in critical care who are often in life-or-death situations. She knows that her care could change that patient’s life, which is something Goodwin doesn’t take lightly.

“In these difficult moments with patients and their families, I try my best to offer hope to those in need,” Goodwin said.

Offering hope to those in need is a lesson Goodwin attributes to the PA program and Dr. Joy Twillie, the program’s academic director.

“Something that stuck with me was when Dr. Twillie said no matter what, you need to offer a patient some type of hope,” Godwin recalled. “That has helped me in critical care and has repeated through my head to this day.”

Twillie emphasizes the missional aspect of the program and treating patients with compassion.

"If you want what you do in medicine to have an impact and to make an eternal difference, then Trevecca is the place for you,” Twillie said.

It was that outlook that sold Goodwin on coming to Trevecca and why she chose to go into medicine in the first place.

“It felt right here,” Goodwin said of Trevecca. “I wanted to go somewhere with a global focus and liked the service aspect instilled at Trevecca. That was what sold me on the PA program here.”

Excelling in her role as a physician assistant intensivist, Goodwin is making a difference in the lives of people walking through difficult times and offering hope to those in need.

“Showing patients you’re doing everything you can is a different type of service that I’m grateful to be doing,” Goodwin said. “It’s what I’m called to do and Trevecca honed that.”


By Blake Stewart
Media contact: Mandy Crow, mmcrow@trevecca.edu, 615-248-1695