In Gram’s place: Cape Breton University’s fall major drew inspiration from her nursing grandmother

TORONTO — Naomi Colford was close to her grandmother Bernice MacLean.

The 22-year-old visited “Gram” weekly before MacLean’s death in February.

MacLean, a retired nurse, told stories of her time working on the floor helping children and babies.

When it came time to choose which career path, Colford thought of her grandmother’s stories of her nursing career.

Her grandmother’s love for pediatric nursing, along with Colford’s passion for helping people, helped the Sydney native decide to pursue a career in nursing.

Choosing to take Cape Breton University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program because of the program’s high reputation, the success of many graduates, and the ability to stay at home, Colford found herself following the footsteps of his grandmother.

When it came time to choose which intensive care unit she would work in as part of the course requirements, she chose the neonatal intensive care unit.

“That’s where I work now, that’s with newborns. I remember telling Gram when I was doing that job. Yet after all these years…she was so interested in hearing about that job” , recalls Colford, who knew how proud she was. her grandmother was her chosen nursing career.

“It’s funny because she had the VONs (Victorian Order of Nurses) come to her house to help her and she used to tell all the VONs (nurses) that I was in care nurses. It was his favorite topic of conversation.”

No doubt Gram MacLean’s pride would have increased tenfold had she been alive to see Colford’s call-up on November 2 at Center 200 where she was chosen valedictorian for the fall 2022 class.

“I’m thrilled,” said Colford, who has worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto since September.

“It’s definitely my passion.”


Even with the demanding courses in CBU’s Bachelor of Science and Nursing program, Colford found time to do things she loves like acting, volunteering, and competing in contests.

In 2019, she won the Miss World Canada pageant, the first time a Nova Scotian has received this crown and title. In December 2019, Colford traveled to London, England, and competed in the Miss World pageant. It was an experience she reveled in.

“I wish every young woman could experience this,” she told the Cape Breton Post during an interview from the competition.

The competition combined many of Colford’s interests. The talent section allowed her to draw on her many years of training in dance and performance. The requirement of volunteerism was based on his community spirit.

Now that she’s finished college, the Sydney native who currently lives in Toronto is thinking about competing in an upcoming Miss Universe pageant.

“I kind of thought after Miss World I was sort of retired,” she said. “But once you catch the contest bug, it’s so much fun meeting other contestants. I love preparing for contests and volunteering and building the platform.”


Colford started at CBU in 2018 in the Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program, a move prompted by her passion for healthy eating and exercise.

After her first year was over, the attraction to nursing took over because she wanted to be “more active” in health care for children. Colford transferred to the nursing program and didn’t look back.

“I absolutely loved my time at CBU,” she said. “I enjoyed every minute of the program. The teaching staff are amazing and so are the other students.”

Colford’s long-term goals include earning a master’s and doctoral degree in nursing, with plans to begin teaching at her alma mater.

For now, she feels privileged to work in her chosen field at Sick Kids, known as the best children’s hospital in the world.

However, there are difficult times as the young patients treated at Sick Kids are struggling with serious illness.

During these times, Colford draws inspiration from Gram’s memory and continues to figuratively walk in his grandmother’s shoes.

“Everyone has a time when they’re not well and they need nurses,” Colford said. “At the end of the day, as long as you do your best, that’s all you can do. If we didn’t have nurses, a lot of people would suffer.”

Naomi Colford

Age: 22 years old

Graduate: CBU

Program: Bachelor of Science, Nursing

Hobbies: Dancing, playing

Dogs: Wally, Ivy

Likes: Traveling, volunteering

Works: Sick Kids Hospital (Toronto)

Career goals: Professor of Nursing at CBU

Former: Miss World Canada 2019

Nicole Sullivan is a diversity and education reporter, who sometimes covers the health beat, at the Cape Breton Post.

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