HawkStrong: Vanessa Newton’s childbirth experience led her to choose nursing

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Portrait of Vanessa Newton, HFC nursing student.

The inspiration Vanessa Newton needed to become a nurse was deeply personal: giving birth to her first daughter.

“My experience during childbirth and prenatal care was not good,” said Newton. “That made me want to go into labor and delivery and become an advocate for Black women and all women of color. I will be their voice. I felt no one was there to speak up for me. It’s my duty to be an advocate for patients if they don’t have power to say something or don’t know how to say it.”

“The Black History I Didn’t Learn in School” (conference panel)

The youngest of six, Newton lives in her native Detroit with her two daughters, ages 8 and 7. A graduate of Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School in Detroit, Newton will graduate this spring from HFC, earning her associate degree in nursing. Then she plans to transfer to the University of Michigan-Flint, where she will complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She also completed coursework at Michigan State University. Newton is one of nine recipients of this year's Olivia D'Souza Community Leadership Scholarship from the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses – Detroit.

“The teachers at the College really invest their time in you and want to see you succeed,” she said. “HFC really has a community feel.”

At HFC, Newton has been a member of the Student Nurse Association (SNA) for two years. For the 2023-24 academic year, she has served as the SNA’s membership director. She is also a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa, the Black Male and QUEENS Focus Group (BMQFG), and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS).

“I’m thankful for the opportunities I've had at HFC. I would not have access to many of these opportunities without HFC and the BMQFG. The Focus Group has tremendously helped me with my confidence and my public speaking skills,” explained Newton, who most recently participated in a professional conference at HFC as part of a four-student panel illuminating “The Black History I Didn’t Learn in School.”

“HFC’s rigorous academics pushes you to do more and work harder. In the Nursing Program, we have clinicals each semester. This gives us the opportunity to observe different units in a hospital.”

“Flushed but did not faint” -- first surgical procedure observation

During clinicals in what is now Corewell Health Trenton Hospital, Newton got to observe a surgical procedure for the first time.

“I felt flushed, but I didn’t faint. I managed to comport myself professionally,” recalled Newton. “Afterward, the nurses saw this and asked me to observe more operations.”

In December, Newton was one of six HFC nursing students who participated in the announcement of a partnership between HFC and Corewell Health’s Nurse Immersive Clinical and Employment program. The first of its kind, this program guarantees employment at Corewell for HFC nursing students who meet the requirements. This partnership will establish a sustainable pipeline of highly qualified, career-ready nursing graduates to serve patients in Corewell facilities throughout Southeast Michigan.

“It’s amazing to have this opportunity and know we have somewhere to go when we graduate. It feels good. One of the hardest things after college is finding a job. To have this guarantee gives you a very secure feeling,” she said.

The most trusted profession: nurses are there for the whole person

One of the greatest influences on Newton has been HFC Nursing Program Coordinator Dr. Wanda Chukwu.

“Vanessa is brilliant, kind, respectful, open to feedback, and willing to learn. What more could I ask for as an educator ushering in future nurses?” said Chukwu. “I am amazed at Vanessa's display of character and integrity. These two attributes are also important to the profession of nursing. Nursing is often considered as the most trusted profession.”

Newton expressed a desire to return to HFC and teach nursing. She says the best part of being in the health care field is being able to advocate for patients.

“Even if it’s in the smallest ways, like the appreciation you see on a patient’s face when you tell them they don’t have to eat broth for the seventh day straight,” she said. “As nurses, we have to listen to patients, listen to where they’re coming from – medically, physically, emotionally. We’re there for the whole person.”

Related Content: HFC Nursing informational video