Jessica Hightower, RN, helps troubled children adjust to life’s challenges at the Cedar Ridge Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital and Residential Treatment Center, located in Oklahoma City.


by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer

There is a resilience in children. Being able to work with them has been a blessing for Jessica Hightower’s career as a registered nurse, she said.
The family approach of holistic care keeps Hightower blossoming in her nursing career as the Residential Treatment Center nurse manager at the Cedar Ridge Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital and Residential Treatment Center, located in Oklahoma City.
“It’s the team approach here because you deal with the psychiatrist, therapy and the family,” Hightower said. “Here we are focused on so many aspects of care.”
There is family therapy, individual therapy and nursing education. We have direct therapy where we have the kids in a holistic approach,” she said.
Hightower said the work is somewhat of a slower pace than acute hospital nursing. This aspect gives her more time to focus on developing a therapeutic relationship. She had worked in a larger hospital before coming to Cedar Ridge.
“There’s something different about working with kids who have had trauma,” Hightower said of the group of children she works with ranging in age from 6 to 17.
Hightower said she has witnessed the individual growth in children as if a light bulb clicks on for them to better face life’s challenges. They see there is hope. The children learn to work through their troubles by knowing they do not have to remain hopeless victims of depression.
Acute care is usually five to seven days of treatment, she said. But at Cedar Ridge the youth can experience acute care and when they discharge to the Residential Treatment Center, they experience a longer process. Sometimes it’s 30 days and sometimes its 90 days.
She also gets to see the children and their families make progress together. The Residential Treatment Center at Cedar Ridge does not just house DHS children, she said. Hightower enjoys seeing families reunite in the unification process that she describes as beautiful. Sometimes there are children who need more time for healing, she continued.
Children are usually admitted to Cedar Ridge for a combination of situational and biological circumstances, she said. Hightower and the staff compliment the psychiatric testing rendered at Cedar Ridge.
Patients are admitted to the acute care setting when they have suicidal ideation with a plan, homicidal ideation with a plan. They may have auditory or visual command hallucinations in the acute setting. They may be hearing voices within that command them to harm somebody or themselves.
The residential setting is different and is within a different building. It is a voluntary optional setting of treatment, she explained. Children in the Residential Treatment Center often come with aggressive behavioral traits, she said. DHS may report that the aggressive behavior has been noted in a school setting or a home environment.
“The psychiatrists we have are phenomenal. They spot those things being great doctors. They are not the type of doctors who just want to medicate patients,” Hightower explained.
There is no force needed when the least restrictive measures are employed, she said.
“We are very strong in verbal de-escalation here,” Hightower said. “We have what we call an orange juice team where we call for the serving of orange juice. Our strongest verbal de-escalators go to a unit and verbally de-escalate a situation rather than just restrain a child.”
This is important because some children have been verbally abused in their past. Each child is an individual who needs the individualized care offered by the Residential Treatment Center.
“We want to know what the patient’s history is,” Hightower said. “So between our doctors, the nurse and our mental health techs, we are figuring that out. We are asking those questions. We’re talking to the patient and allowing the patient to share that rather than force it out of them.”
Hightower admires the team oriented approach. She has strong communications skills which is why she thrives at Cedar Ridge. Hightower started out as a floor nurse at Cedar Ridge. She recently moved up into management on June 1.
She began her career at Cedar Ridge in June of 2013 and started on the acute child unit. Hightower is a nursing school graduate of OSU/OKC. She graduated in 2010 and became an RN in 2011.
“I got into nursing because I want to help people,” Hightower said. “I’m very strong in faith. I pray and go to church. My family is a big part of my life. That pushes me to keep coming back here. I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. This is my purpose. God has put me here to help others.”