Pro bowler, Erin McCarthy finally found herself back in her lane defending her home turf for the PWBA’s (Professional Women’s Bowling Association) Lincoln Open in Sun Valley Lanes, a member of the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America, the trade association for 3,400+ bowling centers in the U.S. Coming off a 4th place finish, Erin felt grateful. Bowling is her outlet and not being able to have that escape throughout the shutdown proved especially hard. Her full time job is nurse and for much of 2020, she was stationed in COVID units at two hospitals in the Omaha area.
She spoke with us about her experience on the frontlines of the pandemic and how she divides her time between her job as a healthcare worker and competing as one of the country’s top professional bowlers.
Q&A With Nurse & Pro Bowler, Erin McCarthy
Q: Bowling is a major outlet for you, yet the shutdown meant you couldn’t compete at a time when you probably needed it most – fighting on the front lines. What was it like to lose it and now to get it back again?
A: Losing bowling made me realize just how much I truly needed it and how much I unknowingly took the sport for granted. I obviously have a life here with family and my career in nursing here in Nebraska, however traveling on the road with my best friends and competing on the lanes was my outlet from a busy reality at home. Having it back is almost a surreal feeling after not having it for almost all of 2020 in the midst of a pandemic and not knowing when it would be back to actually stay.
Q: Tell us about your experience working in the COVID units at two hospitals.
A: When I decided I wanted to become a nurse over 7 years ago, the thought of being on the front lines in the middle of a pandemic had never even crossed my mind. It’s difficult to put into words what myself and so many other healthcare workers have experienced while working in covid units. To be blunt, I have seen more death over the past year than I have throughout my entire nursing career thus far. Being an ER/ICU/Progressive Care nurse I have often cared for very sick patients, but many of the covid patients I have cared for have placed an entirely new meaning to the word “sick”. These patients often deteriorate rapidly despite all medical interventions. The most challenging aspect in my opinion was the fact visitation policies were and still are very strict. Family members are unable to visit their loved ones on covid units. The only means of communication are often via phone or tablet between the nurse and family. Many of these covid patients (especially in the ICU) are unable to communicate themselves due to being on a ventilator. It’s one thing to be a nurse caring for patients and being able to explain things to family in person, but I can’t imagine being on the other end relying on someone I’ve never actually met before caring for my loved one and being the only means of communication. 2020 gave me a new perspective on many things and forced myself and many others to endure obstacles both inside and outside of the workplace we had never anticipated. That being said, these obstacles have allowed me to grow as a person and subsequently has made me a more well rounded nurse.
Q: After slowing down in 2020, many people are choosing not to return to packed schedules. As someone who has balanced pro bowling and nursing for years, are you considering adopting a different pace or is it full steam ahead?
A: When it was announced early on that the 2020 PWBA tour would be postponed indefinitely, my heart sank. Being a healthcare worker and following along with the news I fully expected this, but it certainly didn’t make the harsh reality any easier. I began working as a nurse in April of 2014 and the tour was re-launched in 2015. A full packed schedule is all I’ve known since beginning my career in the hospital and on the lanes. When that schedule was abruptly flipped upside down I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I realized I am not a homebody by any means. For me personally, I need the traveling and the competitiveness on the lanes. I’ve also met my best friends through this sport, so not being able to see them on a regular basis last year and not knowing when some sort of normalcy would resume was incredibly difficult. 2020 did have some new exciting outcomes for myself, despite many of the negative events. I was able to build and move into a house with my now fiance and her children. I’m still going full steam ahead with bowling and nursing, but I have also learned to balance these two things with family life at home.
Q: How was competing at the PWBA’s Lincoln Open this past weekend
A: Bittersweet in many ways. Having a tournament so close to home is rare. My parents, family and friends would have normally been in attendance if it were any other year. However, with covid protocols in place, spectators are unfortunately not allowed. However, at the end of the day, I’m just happy to be back out on the lanes competing.
Q: Financially, it has been a tough time for bowling centers. Do you see the sport making a full comeback?
A: A majority of bowling centers were left financially devastated due to the impact covid had on them and unfortunately, some of these centers had to close their doors permanently. I would love for the sport to make a full comeback and never have to endure something like this again. However, I think businesses and the sport of bowling needs more time to reach its full potential and hopefully continue growing for years to come.
Elise began her career as a Writer/Anchor/Reporter at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, GA. She also served as Supervising Producer at E! Networks and most recently, has been busy freelance producing and writing for numerous magazines and blogs.