By Marlena E. Bermel

Lending a Helping Hand

UNM Nursing Student Gains Real-World Experience Volunteering with the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps

When the world shut down last spring, Heather Michelle Linville found herself at a crossroad.

She could continue progressing toward her nursing degree or she could get involved. Already a certified nursing assistant, Linville knew she couldn’t just sit at home: she needed to get out there and help.

lending-a-helping-hand.jpgLinville stumbled upon a Facebook post for the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which was looking for volunteers. The MRC is made up of medical and non-medical volunteers from around the state who serve their fellow citizens in time of need.  Volunteers sign up for two-week deployments that consist of 12-hour days. She immediately signed up.

Her first assignment was in Gallup. Linville had lived there for 13 years, and her daughter and newborn grand-daughter currently reside there. 

“I was very familiar with the culture and the community,” Linville says. “If I wasn’t taking care of someone I directly knew, it was probably someone’s family member.”

She provided nursing support in the Alternate Care Facility (ACF) that was set up in the Miyamura High School gymnasium. The 60-bed isolation unit was used to provide medical support to COVID-19 patients as they came out of the hospital but were not yet able to return home. 

After the facility closed down she was given the option to serve in Farmington or volunteer in Albuquerque. Having just learned that she was accepted into The University of New Mexico College of Nursing’s BSN Dual Degree program, she opted to return to Albuquerque. 

Linville is currently volunteering at a local hotel that has been transformed into an ACF while attending school online due to the pandemic. The ACF provides housing and a safe place for people to isolate who have been exposed, suspect they’ve been exposed or have tested positive for COVID. Many of the patients are homeless, requiring additional care. 

Having started school with the intent of becoming a nurse-midwife, Linville says this experience has slightly changed that. “Now I know there are so many more opportunities to help people in Albuquerque, and I don’t want to pigeonhole myself,” she says.

Linville strongly recommends other nursing students to volunteer. 

“The people I work with are generous with their time and desire to share education and information,” she says. “I cannot enforce it strongly enough how positive this experience has been.”

Categories: College of Nursing, Education