The Frontier community is proud to have students and alumni serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the next few weeks, we are committed to sharing their stories in order to provide insight, hope and encouragement. Thank you to all the health care workers who are risking their own well-being daily to serve our nation. Click here to read more stories of courage and dedication.
In times of crisis, it is easy to see the bad; however, it is during these times that finding the good is the most important. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are fortunate to be able to celebrate the heroic efforts of those on the front lines. One of those heroes is Frontier Nursing University (FNU) graduate and current Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Heather Friend, MSN, FNP, DNP Class 36.
While she was originally born in the tiny coastal town of Crescent City, CA, Heather has lived in the greater Medford southern Oregon area since birth. In 2005, Heather became a registered nurse (RN) and worked in the emergency room and as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. Currently pursuing her DNP at FNU, she is also X-Waivered, allowing her to treat patients with opioid use disorder. She currently works at the La Clinica Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center in southern Oregon where she has been for nearly two years.
“The center continues to be a key asset in the COVID-19 response,” Heather said. La Clinica Wellness Center is located in Jackson County, which was the number one county in Oregon for testing per population capita and number five in the nation for testing per capita at the time of this interview.
“Frontier cultivated a resilience to press on even when daunting tasks are flung in the path such as this pandemic,” she said. “FNU taught me to be open to change, to think with a big picture view, and to ask the tough questions to make successful transformations in how we approach and care for our communities.”
As Heather and La Clinica face the COVID-19 pandemic, they are learning valuable lessons, as they take safety precautions to protect themselves and patients. The staff at La Clinica are wearing masks and implementing temperature checks. However, they are reusing masks due to the limited supply of personal protective equipment.
In this time of unprecedented fear, Heather makes addressing her patient’s concerns and needs a priority. She says that Mary Breckinridge’s legacy drives her to continue the challenging work. In fact, she chose La Clinica Wellness Center, the only place that she applied because she feels that it represents the mission of Frontier. The position, especially during the pandemic, has allowed her to utilize the skills that Frontier has taught her.
“The pandemic has forced us to make many rapid changes, sometimes several in one day,” she said. One such change is implementing Telehealth visits, which she says occasionally take place on her farm so that she can manage her responsibilities as a mother and a practitioner. Roosters, alpacas, goats, and sheep make musical melodies as she visits with patients digitally.
While COVID-19 has presented issues, La Clinica Wellness Center focused on experimenting with innovative measures early on. The clinic has designed outreach protocols with the most at-risk patients as the highest priority. These measures include calling mental health and substance use patients weekly.
Despite the challenges, Heather has found a silver lining in the situation: “Oregon is one of the best states to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Our autonomy has allowed us to make huge contributions to the care of our patients as well as other provider’s panels when they are not in the clinic. The new law allowing NPs to sign home health orders has been a lifesaver.”
She continued, “All of these changes have pushed me far outside my comfort level but it has truly advanced my practice into a new world of technology as well as building resilience through hardships.”