We Dare to strengthen women's health care

How does a nurse make a difference in their community?

Growing up in Flint, Nafisah McClendon, MSN, CNM, FNP-BC, realized she wanted to be a nurse, but her own pregnancy sparked a passion to become a nurse-midwife. She came to the University of Michigan driven by a desire to help women in the city she calls home.

As McClendon studied to become a nurse at the University of Detroit Mercy, midwifery wasn’t a career path she ever considered. But when she found out she was pregnant, something changed.

“Once I got pregnant, it sparked something, and I decided if I’m going to do this, the time is now.”

McClendon pursued combined master’s degrees in midwifery and family nurse practitioner specialties at U-M while raising her newborn daughter and working as an ortho/neuro nurse. Her graduate clinical placements brought her to Hurley Midwifery in Flint, where she realized she’d chosen the right career path.

“That was my first time really being exposed to working midwives, and I loved it.”

McClendon was eventually offered a full-time position at Hurley Midwifery during her senior year. After graduation, she joined three other U-M midwifery graduates at Hurley to begin helping mothers in her hometown.
“There’s something special about being able to help people in my own community — women I grew up with and have known all my life.”

McClendon is a skilled practitioner and spirited advocate, helping women understand how they can benefit from the personalized care midwives provide while working to shift the narrative surrounding her hometown.

“There’s so much negativity associated with Flint. I want to be a positive influence and help create a new perception.”

McClendon hopes that by reaching mothers in her hometown, she can address many of the misconceptions around midwifery. In a tight-knit community where generations of babies have been delivered by the same group of physicians, she wants to educate mothers about the important work midwives do to provide prenatal, postpartum and well woman care.

“People don’t always understand that we are actually the provider — we’re not just assisting the doctor. We have to advocate for ourselves and hold our own to let women know when they are great candidates for midwifery, explain how we’re different and show them that we can help.”

McClendon was nine months pregnant with no prior experience in the field when she decided to become a nurse-midwife, but her journey has shaped the way she provides care and mentorship. As she begins working with new midwifery students during their clinical rotations, she wants to provide the same inspiration and insight she received from her mentors.

“My preceptors helped me get to where I am, so I want to be that person for someone else. I want to be open, honest and encouraging, and take the time to have one-on-one conversations. Don’t let anything prevent you from pursuing your dreams. You have to be mentally and emotionally strong to do this work, but it’s so worth it.”

“There’s something special about being able to help people in my own community — women I grew up with and have known all my life.”

— Nafisah McClendon MSN, CNM, FNP-BC

U-M School of Nursing Alumna