July 3, 2020

Practising RN explores love of patient teaching in flexible graduate studies program

Having just completed UCalgary Nursing's Innovations in Teaching and Learning certificate, Tralene Grillone is on track to complete her Master of Nursing in 2022

Her voice has energy and purpose. It carries over the sound of a barking dog and what could be her nine-year-old playing nearby. Staying focused despite any chaos around her is a technique Tralene Grillone, BN'03, embodies.

A tele-triage nurse for Health Link at the onset of COVID-19 and a former ER nurse for 15 years, Grillone demonstrates the experience and traits of an RN who has seen and heard her share. And she has paid close attention to the unfolding of her career, grabbing opportunities as they came about. So having found a balance at home after some time away from emergency work, Grillone began to consider trying something new.

“It never seemed feasible," she says about going back to school. Until it did  in a presentation at her workplace about a new stackable Master of Nursing (MN) program at UCalgary that meets a growing need for flexible learning. She could complete a one-year certificate online in an area she was interested in and apply it toward a graduate degree.

“And that was it. I applied relatively quickly [to the Innovations in Teaching and Learning stream] and started in September. I discovered something new I could pursue for me, and share my love of nursing with others.”

  • Photo above, from left: Students Wesley Fabroa, Ashley Penrose, Justine Reyes, Robin Donaldson, Tralene Grillone, Jennifer Smith and team lead Dr. Janet Rankin at residency in 2019.
Tralene Grillone, UCalgary MN student

Tralene Grillone, BN'03 is a tele-triage nurse for Health Link and a former ER nurse.

Teaching was a vocation to which Grillone felt increasingly drawn. At Health Link, she realized she had more time to connect with patients and a passion for patient teaching began to flourish.

“You have all the time in the world to spend with these callers,” she says. “I love that, working with people on a deeper level. It’s a totally different style of nursing.”

This graduate program would be the perfect opportunity to explore and hone her passion for education, she thought. The Stackable Certificate MN program, launched in 2019, is a new kind of graduate education offered at UCalgary Nursing with flexible completion options. It’s designed for registered nurses looking to advance their careers within their current specialty, transition to a new specialty or enter more senior leadership roles.

Sky's the limit 

Grillone completed the teaching and learning stream and will enter the leadership stream in September 2020. She is on track to complete the graduate degree in her third year, in tandem with her busy life as a nurse and mother. "I can see a lot of potential in all the different places I could go with this. I think the sky’s the limit."

When the program first started, though, she worried she might be in over her head. But a 10-day orientation that informed her about new research techniques and study tips put her on the right path.

“I felt I was really set up for success. Once I got confident after the first month I was off and running.”

Grillone has many roles at work. She is responsible for assessments, mentoring new staff, and managing the COVID-19 phone line, among other tasks. She says the course has helped build confidence and enhance her skills in many of these areas.

“I felt I was able to support staff in a different way and more confidently support learning needs.”

Dr. Janet Rankin, PhD, associate professor and team lead for the Innovations in Teaching and Learning stream, says the certificate is designed for any nurse or health professional “to develop a conscious philosophy for their position as both teachers and learners.

The program is designed to support registrants to begin to really understand that teaching and learning happens in relationships,” she says. “Those relationships are influenced by context, neuro-cognition, past experiences, motivations and so forth.

It is intended for someone doing diverse teaching work, as with patients and families, nursing staff members, undergraduate nurses, she adds. And it suits someone like Grillone, who has great hopes for where her advanced education might lead.

“I think it’s a really interesting new world — how education can be done. We have to think about the different ways we can do it…and be open to experiences.”