Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, RN, OND, CM - Nurse and Community Advocate

Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, RN, OND, CM
Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, RN, OND, CM (Sourced from cbc.ca, originally submitted by Kendrick Douglas)

In recognition of African Heritage Month, Nova Scotia Health is sharing profiles of influential Black health leaders who have helped shape the history of medicine and health care in Nova Scotia. Leaders like Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, RN, OND, CM.

Born Jan. 11, 1932, in Whitney Pier, Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk (nee Clotilda Adessa Coward) was a health care and community leader. Her number of  prestigious firsts is as lengthy as the list of celebrated letters after her name.

In 1954, the Whitney Pier resident became the first Black graduate of the Nova Scotia Hospital School of Nursing and worked, mostly in psychiatry, for over 50 years. Previously, Douglas-Yakimchuk explained to CBC News that she applied to several other nursing schools but didn’t hear back nor was never given a reason for not being accepted.

Douglas-Yakimchuk worked in several different positions in what is now Nova Scotia Health, starting as head nurse of the admission/discharge unit of the Nova Scotia Hospital. In 1957, she moved to Grenada, where she was the director of nursing at the Psychiatric Hospital. Returning home in 1967, she took a position as staff nurse at Sydney City Hospital. She later became nursing supervisor, then director of staff development at Cape Breton Hospital. She was director of education services at the Cape Breton Regional when she retired in 1994.

In 1988, she became the first Black person to be elected president of the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia (now called the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia), and in 2003 received the Order of Canada for her nursing contributions and community involvement.

In addition to her work in nursing, Douglas-Yakimchuk was dedicated to social justice, the education of Black youth, and older people’s well-being, and was the founding president of the Black Community Development Organization, which helped provide housing to low-income people in Nova Scotia.

She also produced a radio show highlighting Black culture and contributed to the book, “Reflections of Care: A Century of Nursing in Cape Breton.” The proceeds from the book created an award for nursing students at Cape Breton University, where Douglas-Yakimchuk helped establish a nursing program and where she later received an honorary Doctor of Laws.

Douglas-Yakimchuk is a member of the Nova Scotia Black Hall of Fame and, in 1991, received the national Harry Jerome Award in acknowledgement of her cultural and community achievements. She was also a recipient of the College of Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia Centennial Award of Distinction and of an Honorary Diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College.

Formidable nurse Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk died in April 2021 of COVID-19. She was 89.