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Nova Scotian trailblazer Clotilda Yakimchuk remembered as a ‘super-nurse’

Order of Nova Scotia

An outstanding retired African Nova Scotian nurse is being remembered as a leader for her community and a trailblazer in nursing.

Clotilda Yakimchuk, from Whitney Pier, passed away on Thursday with COVID-19.

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union president says Yakimchuk left behind a strong legacy, and extended her condolences to the family, in what she called a “great loss.”

Janet Hazleton says she met Yakimchuk after she had already retired from nursing.

“I must say that she, in retirement even, was an inspiration,” said Hazelton.

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Yakimchuk was the first Black person to be named president of the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia. She then created an award for nursing students at Cape Breton University.

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Years before that, she was the first Black woman to graduate from the Nova Scotia Hospital School of Nursing in 1954.

“What I admire most about her is that when she graduated and first started nursing … I can only imagine how much of a challenge that was for her.”

Hazelton added that discrimination in the field is still seen today.

“For her to have stayed in the profession, loved the profession, encouraged people to go into the profession in spite of all of that, is quite admirable.”

Hazelton said Yakimchuk opened doors for generations of nurses to come.

“People that looked like her would look to her to say ‘if she could do it, then I can do it now.’”

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Yakimchuk had an exciting career, said Hazelton, adding that she showed the profession can be much more than what it’s painted out to be.

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“Even after she retired, she was still the emblem of nursing and what nursing is,” she said.

“But the most important thing is she talked about and recognized the discrimination piece. And unless we pull it out, talk about it and recognize it, it doesn’t go away, so she did that often and very well.”

Hazelton said Yakimchuk was able to do all of that, retire and still love the job, “and talk about it with pride.”

Yakimchuck was also named in the 2018 Order of Nova Scotia.

Back then the province said her story is “one of triumph over obstacles, including racism and discrimination.”

“She has dedicated her life to the service of others and the health of her community, using each difficult experience to become stronger,” it said.

More to come…

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