Joella Francis, RN has been in the nursing field for over 50 years, and still works part-time at age 79.

by Van Mitchell, Staff Writer

Francis credits her faith for leading her into her nursing career which continues today at age 79.
Joella Francis, RN was featured in Oklahoma’s Nursing Times December 11, 2023.

Joella Francis credits God for leading her into a RN nursing career that has spanned over 50 years, including today at age 79, where she continues to work part-time at Pioneer Technology Center in Ponca City.
“I will be a nurse forever. I would never change my vocation,” she said. “I give all my credit to Jesus Christ because I’m a Christian, and so He has led me and guided me all the way. He gives me the ability to have, I think, a real love towards patients and people. I couldn’t do it without the Lord. I haven’t always given Him credit, but now when I look back on my life, I’m almost 80, I know He was there and guiding me all the way.
Francis’ nursing journey began at a young age.
“My grandmother on my dad’s side was a dietary aide at Wesley Hospital in Wichita, and I would go with her when she passed snacks to patients. I couldn’t go in the rooms, but I could help her get the snacks ready and be up on the floors when we passed them to the patients. That is where I got my first thoughts that I might want to be a nurse.”
Francis graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1966. During her education, she worked as a student nurse for OU Children’s Hospital for $8 per shift as a junior and $10 per shift as a senior nursing student. She met her husband Richard during her time at OU and they were married when she was a junior in nursing school.
After graduation, she worked for Children’s Hospital for approximately two years. Francis and her husband later moved to Norman where he attended OU.
“We moved to Norman and I went to work for Primrose Nursing Home. I worked there for about three years. After having our first child, I returned to the workforce for the Norman Public School as a practical nursing instructor. I was only there about a year, and then we moved to Duncan, and that’s where I did most of my nursing at the Medical Center Hospital in Duncan, which is what it was called then, she said.
Francis said she wore several hats working at Duncan.
“I did all kinds of things there,” she said. “I’ve been an educator, Director of Nursing. I was a house supervisor. I helped set up their first coronary care unit, because they were just being developed at that time. I think it was the early seventies. A couple of other nurses and I went to coronary care school for two weeks and then set up the system for the hospital. During that time, I had two more children. I continued to work full-time, but because of family obligations, I worked nights in ICU, ER and supervisor for several years. I also started to do some part-time teaching at Red River Technology Center as a practical nursing instructor.”
Francis said they were in the homebuilding business in Duncan, and when the oil bust came in 1985, they moved to Texas.
“I worked in an ICU in San Marcos during that time,” she said. “We then moved to McAlester due to my husband’s job. I went to work at McAlester Hospital in ICU and then I worked for Kiamichi Technology Center as a practical nursing instructor.”
Due to better job opportunities, they decided to move back to Duncan where Francis became the Coordinator for the Practical Nursing program at Red River Technology Center.
“Because of our children being college age, we moved to Stillwater and I then began working at Meridian Technology Center as a practical nursing instructor,” she said. “We moved to Connecticut for my husband’s job and I went to work for a large nursing home facility as a nursing educator.”
Francis said during that time, her parents who lived in Braman needed care as her dad was very sick.
“On my way home to Ponca City, my daughter called me and said there was a Practical Nursing Coordinator job at the Ponca City Pioneer Technology Center,” she said. “I worked there for about 10 years as the Practical Nursing Coordinator and retired in 2010.”
Francis didn’t stay retired long.
“I stayed off for about three years, and then (Pioneer Technology Center) called me,” she said. “Because I have nursing home experience and was an RN, they needed someone to check off nurse aides testing skills. They have to do a skills checkoff, and they need somebody to come and do their skills checkoff testing. I’m still working, but it’s like every other month. Sometimes I work three days, sometimes it’s two days. It depends on how big their nurse aide class is.”
Francis said one of her joys from nursing has been taking care of patients.
“I’ve always loved nursing. I love taking care of people. I love being with students and patients together,” she said. “My favorite thing besides just being a plain old nurse, was to be with the students and with their patients and helping them learn, and see students grow in their knowledge and see students pass their boards. It is a joy to see young ladies or gentlemen, who thought they couldn’t do anything in this world become very good Practical Nurses.”
Francis said she enjoys being a mentor to nursing students.
“A lot of them go on and get their RN, so I feel like I’ve been an instrument in helping them to realize that life is out there for them, and they can do things,” she said. “I’m very proud of my students that I had because a lot of them didn’t think they could do anything when they came to our school.”
Francis turns 80 in March, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. She has just completed her CEU’s required to renew her license in March.
“I don’t ever consider myself an old lady, but I know I am,” she said. “I don’t ever see myself as that, because I stay very active in what I do. That’s another reason I like to work. I help with art in the Christian school at our church. I stay very, very active. I have many hobbies, 13 grandchildren to love, I do not plan to slow down yet. I give all that credit to the Lord for giving me good health.”