Children’s oncology nurse advances career through online BSN program

by | Mar 18, 2015

Jori Derner (left), a nurse at St. Louis Children's Hospital, graduated from the RN to BSN online program in 2013.
Jori Derner (left), a nurse at St. Louis Children's Hospital, holds Viktor Ebers' IV as he and his parents take a stroll. Derner graduated from the RN to BSN online program in 2013 and is now in the graduate nursing program at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jori Derner (left), a nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, holds Viktor Ebers’ IV as he and his parents take a stroll. Derner graduated from the RN to BSN online program in 2013 and is now in the graduate nursing program at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jori Derner has shaved her head twice. And it wasn’t for punk rock or an edgy ’do. She did it in support of her patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she is a nurse in the pediatric hematology/oncology ward. Her head was one of many shaved for St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s effort to raise money for childhood cancer research.

“Both times were incredibly emotional,” Derner says. “I have personally seen the benefits of the research St. Baldrick’s funds in action. They are helping to save lives! It also helps to brighten a patient’s day when they see a bald nurse running around.”

And run around she does. Her full-time nursing job made going back to school for her BSN seem impossible through a traditional program. But when she researched the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ online RN to BSN option, Derner found a program that fit her lifestyle.

“I liked that the requirements were all laid out online. I quickly went from thinking about getting my BSN to being certain I could do it, even with a husband, two children and a full-time nursing career.”

UMSL was recently ranked second in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for highest completion of an online degree in six years. Derner’s online coursework included independent reading, discussion board posts and papers submitted through email or Blackboard.

“I usually did my schoolwork from home, on my days off and while my two children were either at school or napping.”

She even completed the clinical requirement remotely through community teaching on blood pressure and a few hours with a nurse practitioner. Derner graduated in 2013 just under five years after entering the program.

While she always wanted to get her BSN – Derner considers herself a lifelong learner – the degree also meant a pay raise and helped Children’s Hospital earn magnet status, a designation by American Nurses Credentialing Center. The center considers the percentage of the nursing staff with a four-year degree among other qualifications for the status.

Now, Derner is back at UMSL in the College of Nursing’s graduate program to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. She’s always wanted to be a nurse practitioner and anticipates graduating in August 2016. In the meantime, she continues helping sick kids.

“I am often asked, ‘How can you work with those children,’ meaning ones with cancer. My answer is that they and their families are incredible. They are often the sickest of patients, yet they continue to run the halls with their IV poles and shoot dart guns and saline flushes at the nursing staff.”

Derner says that part of patient care is play and that there is lots of laughter on her floor.

“The children are truly the bravest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. As for the families, they too are experiencing something no parent should ever have to go through. I love being able to make their days a little easier.”
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Marisol Ramirez

Marisol Ramirez

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