CAREERS IN NURSING
VILLAGE NURSING: CENTRAL OKLAHOMA JUVENILE CENTER
story and photo by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Cynthia Chancellor, RN, comes to work every day to a lush 30-acre campus complete with ponds, an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts and a baseball diamond.
The 30-year nurse wears many hats working as nurse manager at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh.
Working with more than 70 juveniles, success is measured on a different scale than most other nursing settings for Chancellor and her staff.
“A lot of kids are here because they’re just had neglect and poverty in their youth and they’ve grown up that way . For one reason or another they’ve gotten into some crime whether it be stealing cars or burglary. The judge sends them here to work our treatment program.
“Our goal is to train them and equip them with skills, not only educationally but emotionally so they can reintegrate into society.”
A bill to expand the Tecumseh campus and consolidate all juvenile services has worked its way through the legislature. The agency has until January to submit its plan for what they will look like to Governor Mary Fallin, who is originally from Tecumseh.
That means more nurses are needed. And nursing encompasses a lot of things at the Tecumseh facility.
“A lot of times (juveniles) are initially upset because people have threatened them that something’s going to happen,” Chancellor said. “Our goal is to try to make them more comfortable. We’re the first people who see them when they come on campus because we need to make sure they are healthy and don’t have any medical issues.”
From there the residents meet with the psychologist to help them understand how to get their needs met.
A physician and a dentist come weekly to see patients. Three times a month a psychiatrist comes by.
Each unit has a treatment team consisting of a psych clinician, a juvenile justice specialist (social worker), a unit manager and youth guidance specialist along with a teacher.
“They work with them to let them know what accomplishments they need to make to go from one level to another,” Chancellor said.
Juveniles progress through five levels with more privileges added at each level before eventually graduating.
Individual and group therapy is provided in each unit along with recreational therapists.
“They play a really big part in trying to teach them how to enjoy life,” Chancellor said. “Trying to get them into healthy lifestyles and enjoying life as a kid, which they a lot of times have not had the opportunity to do that (is the goal).”
A History of Service
The Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center is celebrating its 100th year of helping Oklahoma’s youth.
The current campus sits on 30 acres of a 147.7-acre plat. It has gone through many transformations over the years and was formerly known as the Russell Industrial School, Oklahoma State Industrial School for Incorrigible Girls, the State Industrial School for White Girls, Girls Town and Central Oklahoma Juvenile Treatment Center.
It has been known as COJC [koh-jak] since August of 1992. Through the transitions it has served as a facility for orphans, children in need of mental health treatment, delinquents and youthful offenders. It was previously operated by the Department of Human Services but has been under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs since 1995.
“It’s really good because when I think people work with the older groups like in a prison there’s not a whole lot of chance for a change but these kids are ripe for teaching because they haven’t had a lot of education,” Chancellor said.
The center houses a charter school. During their entire stay – which can be seven months or longer – students are always working towards their diploma.
Chancellor and her nursing staff do a lot of teaching along with meeting medical needs. Hygiene, pregnancy prevention, the importance of drinking plenty of water when out in the summer heat – all are topics covered when trying to help the juveniles build life skills they still haven’t acquired.
Just the other day Chancellor received a call from a former juvenile.
He asked for his immunization record so he could enroll in college.
“Those kind of things really.” Chancellor said of how she measures success.
Chancellor is looking for nurses who can make a difference in the lives of young people, all the while being able to see the difference they make on a daily basis.