Nursing graduate Celeste Haefner starting position in hemoncology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

by | May 13, 2024

She'll be working with leukemia and lymphoma patients receiving bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy.
Celeste Haefner

Celeste Haefner, who recently graduated from the College of Nursing, Haefner will soon start a nursing position on the hemoncology floor at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, working with leukemia and lymphoma patients receiving bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Celeste Haefner appreciates the versatility of nursing. In high school, she found herself drawn to health sciences courses, but couldn’t picture herself working in forensics to investigate murders or running DNA as a technician in a lab. Instead, she started to develop an interest in health care, and by the time she began applying to colleges in her junior year, she knew she wanted to be a nurse.

“Those are very specific jobs – you really have to want to go for that,” she said. “A nurse is so versatile – you can do so much with a nursing degree. I figured I could just start somewhere and see where it goes.”

That path ultimately took Haefner to the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Last week, she graduated with her BSN, along with a certificate from the Pierre Laclede Honors College.

Haefner, who lives in O’Fallon, Missouri, was initially worried about not being able to get involved on campus as a commuter, but was pleasantly surprised to find lots of student organizations and clubs, a welcoming and inviting student center and a best-in-class recreation and wellness center. She was also involved in the Student Nurses Association and Voices of Jubilation, a new student, faculty and community gospel choir led by Maria Ellis.

Haefner also found a support system in both the College of Nursing and Honors College, the latter of which was a major draw in choosing UMSL. She appreciated the college’s smaller, seminar-style discussion-based courses and focus on writing and critical thinking skills.

“I think the professors at UMSL, especially the Honors College, are very personal and very able to cater to students’ needs,” she said. “I really liked the discussions. It wasn’t just feeding you information; student input really was important to them. When I got more into nursing school, it was less interactive because they had to teach you more science-y stuff, but I still felt like the professors really cared about us. In general, I felt really supported.”

Whether meeting with a professor one-on-one to work through a particular concept or preparing for the National Council Licensure Examination, she’s felt a strong sense of support from the College of Nursing faculty and staff. She feels her experience in the college, both in the classroom and in clinicals, has set her up well for her next steps. Through the college’s innovative Community-Based Clinical Education program, she gained firsthand experience working at St. Andrew’s Senior Solutions over the course of several semesters. Along with fellow students, she conducted health screenings with residents, monitoring their blood pressure, blood sugar, oxygen level and pulse, and also presented on health topics including diabetes, heart disease and mental health.

She also appreciated being able to narrow down her top three choices for her final clinical, which she ended up completing at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital through the hospital system’s Earn While You Learn program.

“That was really cool, and it opened up a lot of opportunity because I was able to work and go to school at the same time,” she said. “Otherwise, I would have had to do it part time because I’m paying for it myself, so the flexibility was really awesome. Nursing is a lot of studying and a lot of work, so it’s not extremely flexible, but being able to choose where your last clinical is is so important because that’s really where you’re deciding, ‘Okay, what nurse am I going to be?’ ‘Who am I going to be as a nurse?’ To be able to even just have a say in that was so valuable.”

Haefner was interested in the St. Peters location as it was close to home, but also because she had firsthand experience in the hospital. After spending time working as a tech at the St. Peters location, she knew the nurses well and felt it would be a good learning environment.

“Being able to choose a unit that had great unit culture was awesome,” she said. “It set me up to know when to ask questions, know what my support systems are and be able to reach out – that attitude of taking everything as a learning opportunity to move forward. If you make a mistake, you talk to your clinical instructor and your preceptor and you move on and then you don’t make a bigger mistake in the future versus pointing fingers or things like that.”

Haefner will soon start a nursing position on the hemoncology floor at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, working with leukemia and lymphoma patients receiving bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy. Haefner will be working the night shift, seeing four to five patients each shift, monitoring their symptoms and managing their medications, IV fluids and hygiene. Down the line, she’s also interested in getting certified to administer chemotherapy in two years or potentially pursuing gynecology oncology.

“At first, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go,” she said. “In nursing school, a lot of people know exactly what they want to do when they come in. But there’s also a lot of people who don’t, and I was one of those people – I had no idea. Oncology just started to look really interesting to me, and the patients are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I just knew I wanted oncology. I had heard really good things about the bone marrow transplant unit, so I just interviewed there. It was really awesome, so I decided to go for it. I’m just gonna take it from here and see where it goes, but I think that it will be really good for me.”

Heather Riske

Heather Riske