School of Nursing Alumna of the Year
As she began her final semester in UNLV's School of Nursing, April Clyde was brimming with excitement and optimism in equal measure. She was nearing the completion of her bachelor's degree, and already had zeroed in on a career in labor and delivery.
Now it was time for the fun part: gaining hands-on experience by shadowing a professional in her chosen speciality for the entire semester.
Paired with a labor and delivery nurse manager at a local hospital, Clyde was eager to see the skills she learned in in class in action. She was hopeful that, by semester's end, she would show enough aptitude to be recommended for a permanent position.
“At the time, it was uncommon for a new graduate to be hired onto a specialty floor like labor and delivery,” April says. “So I knew the odds were against me. Still, I thought if I worked really hard and proved myself, I could be the exception.”
Unfortunately, it took all of one shift before that dream was shattered.
“At the end of my first day, the nurse manager bluntly told me: ‘My unit has never hired a new graduate, and you will not be the first,’” she says. “I was crushed.”
Understandably, that emotion lingered for a spell. Eventually, though, it gave way to another one: motivation.
April would spend the semester on parallel missions. When not making the rounds and absorbing everything she possibly could from her assigned mentor (“I learned so much,” she says now), April worked to obtain the extra training and certification required of labor and delivery nurses — the kind many nursing students don’t graduate with.
“I learned what all those requirements were, and one by one I completed them,” April says. “I then created a job description for a new graduate labor and delivery nurse, and presented it to the nurse manager. I did, indeed, become the first new graduate to be hired on that unit.”
The happy ending hardly ends there.
April went on to help deliver 1,500 babies in her first five years at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. During that time, she met a nurse midwife and immediately was intrigued by the concept.
Soon after, she became a certified nurse midwife, and in 2008 started her own business, Baby’s First Day, which catered to expectant mothers seeking natural childbirth experiences. While the business was successful, April sensed an opportunity for something grander: a freestanding childbirth center that would function in the same way as a traditional labor-and-delivery unit, just not in a hospital setting.
The only problem? Such a facility wasn’t permitted under existing Nevada law. So April added “lobbyist” to her midwife duties and sought approval for a new law that would allow nurse practitioners to own birth centers. It took three Nevada legislative sessions — six years in all — before April’s work paid off in the form of Assembly Bill 287, which passed in 2018.
Three years later, April opened Serenity Birth Center, the first of its kind in Southern Nevada. In doing so, she became the only former labor and delivery nurse in the state of Nevada to become an independent, out-of-hospital midwife.
“I entered nursing school knowing I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse,” says Clyde, who is a lifelong Las Vegas resident. “I loved babies, and the humanity, transformation and primal essence of birth captivated me from the very first birth I attended. It continues to captivate me 25 years later.”
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?
I really had no idea what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” But my dad is a pharmacist and loved his profession, so I decided I would follow in his footsteps.
In 1995, a bachelor’s degree wasn’t needed to attend pharmacy school. I only needed to complete certain required credits and classes, which was my plan when I got to UNLV. Then the summer before I was set to leave for pharmacy school, I went to work in my dad’s pharmacy — and thank goodness I did, because I quickly learned that pharmacist was not the profession for me.
I told my dad, who not only didn’t put pressure on me to reconsider — for which I’m forever grateful — but offered me what turned out to be life-changing advice. Knowing I had an interest in science, he encouraged me to volunteer at a hospital. I agreed, and one day while volunteering, I ran into my OB/GYN. He was on his way into a delivery and asked if I wanted to join him. I excitedly said yes and was immediately hooked.
I switched my major to nursing the very next day.
What led you to UNLV, and when did you know you made the right decision?
I grew up in Las Vegas, I’m close to my family, and two family members — my mom and my older sister — are UNLV graduates. Also, I received a full scholarship from UNLV. So it was an easy decision. And I knew it was the right one when I started the nursing program.
I felt an immediate sense of community and kinship. I met so many wonderful classmates, many of whom became lifelong friends. I was also inspired by my instructors who had a passion for nursing. I saw the care they gave touched people’s lives.
How did your interest in/passion for being a midwife develop?
Early in my nursing career, I cared for a couple that came to the labor and delivery unit with a seven-page birth plan. A birth plan is a written record of what you would like to happen (and not happen) when you are having a baby. I was intrigued by this couple. They both had doctorate degrees, and had obviously put a lot of time and effort into their birth plan.
I did everything I could to help them achieve what they wanted and avoid what they didn’t want. I watched in awe as this loving husband supported his strong, confident, and capable wife through the birth process. The connection, power, and love that I witnessed pierced me.
I quickly became my unit’s natural childbirth nurse. If a family came in with a birth plan or a desire to deliver without an epidural, I would swap my patient to care for that family. I soon realized that it was less about whether a natural birth was achieved and much more about whether the couple felt in charge, felt their needs and wishes were honored, and felt they had received care that helped them feel safe.
In 2021, after multiple battles with the state Legislature, you opened the first free-standing birth center in Southern Nevada. What motivated you to keep pursuing that goal in the face of resistance?
I was exposed to the birth center model of care during graduate school. Quite simply, it touched my heart.
Prior to graduate school, I had been practicing as a labor and delivery nurse at Sunrise Hospital for five years. At that time, we had 400 births a month happening and I had witnessed many natural childbirths.
However, I came to learn that birth in a birth center was different. The pace was slower. It was more family centered. There was more hands-on and one-to-one care. There was a “normal until proven otherwise” approach to pregnancy, labor, birth, and the newborn.
I knew I wanted to bring that model of care to my hometown and knew the families in my hometown deserved such care.
You’ve broken through a lot of barriers in your nursing career. What’s your message to current UNLV nursing students about the importance of having the courage of their convictions?
The first and most important thing is to know your convictions. Convictions are not merely just opinions; they are firm beliefs that define who we are.
Ask yourself: What breaks your heart? What does your soul long for? How is that tethered to how you are living your life now? Then answer those questions honestly.
I have worked with students for most of my career and am often asked how I found my purpose. Knowing what breaks your heart helps connect you to your purpose.
I deeply believe that each of us is here to move humanity forward — and I especially believe this about nurses. Each and every one of us longs to be of service to others, and also to live our lives in a way that matters.
So having clarity of your convictions and purpose is the first step. From there, the determination to be brave and live into that purpose becomes much simpler. It’s a lifelong process.