Faces of CNM: Heather Linville

As soon as COVID-19 started spreading here in New Mexico, Heather volunteered to work with many of the state’s hardest hit communities
August 19, 2020

If there’s a front line to the front line of COVID-19, Heather Linville has volunteered to be there.

Back when Gallup was put under lockdown, Heather, 43, contacted the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps and volunteered to spend three weeks helping positive patients stationed at a makeshift hospital set up in the Hiroshi Miyamura High School gym. Working as a medical tech, she did everything from bathe patients to help them with physical movements that would encourage their lungs to heal.

Immediately after her time in Gallup, she came back to Albuquerque and started volunteering at a shelter set up in the Hilton Garden Inn that was designed to house unsheltered COVID-19 patients, or unsheltered residents that needed to quarantine.

Asked why she decided to volunteer, Heather’s answer is frank and confident.

“It’s been my dream my whole life to help people, and I saw people in need so I went,” she says.

Heather just graduated from CNM with her associate in Pre-Health Sciences and this fall she’ll be enrolling in the CNM-UNM Dual Degree Program where students obtain an associate in Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) and then a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Before the program starts, however, she’ll keep volunteering at the unsheltered clinic.

Right now, she says the clinic has 73 rooms available and each room can house multiple people. Short of placing patients on ventilators—which happens at a hospital—she and the staff are doing all they can to help the patients.

“This is important work, but it’s also important in-the-field experience for me,” she says. “Why would I sit home and study when I can be studying in real life?”

Heather says she credits CNM, and the TRIO program specifically, with setting her up for success. TRIO—which works with low-income, first-generation, and students with disabilities who want to transfer to a four-year school—guided her through her toughest classes, helped her through a difficult disability, and allowed her to develop the confidence she needed to apply to the CNM-UNM program.

More specifically, Heather says she came to CNM with a misdiagnosis for a mental health problem that stemmed from an abusive marriage. She enrolled in college and immediately faced problems focusing. Thanks to medical intervention, and support from TRIO, she got better and was able to succeed.

“I was accepted into TRIO as my world was falling apart and they provided such incredible support and academic encouragement,” she says. “I was convinced I couldn’t be a student, but they got me through. Honestly I can’t even remember everything they’ve done for me. They’re amazing.”

After she graduates with her BSN, Heather says she wants to become a nurse practitioner and then get her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). When she’s done with her degrees, her plan is to go back to the Medical Reserve Corps and serve around the globe wherever they need her.

“There are emergencies all over the world, and I know I can continue to help,” she says.