Autumn Edition 2019

Edition 6 — Career transition and development

Welcome to the Autumn 2019 Edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter. Since Nurse & Midwife Support launched in March 2017, we have heard from nurses and midwives who want information and support on how to progress their career or transition to a different job while remaining in the profession.

This newsletter offers great articles, tips and advice on how to plan your career pathway and take those first steps towards your dream job or promotion.

If you want support to discuss career transition you can call us on 1800 667 877.
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In this issue:

My experience with career transition

Mark Aitken tells his own story of career transition in his 30-year nursing career. Read more.

Changing lanes

Experienced nurse Nelly discusses how changing her perception of her skills and abilities led her on a new career path. Read more.

Why great nurses make terrible managers (and what you can do about it!)

Nurse Manager HQ’s Nicole Nash-Arnold discusses how she stumbled but found her strength as a nursing manager. Read more.

Podcast: Career transition: Your career matters!

Many nurses and midwives contact Nurse & Midwife Support seeking support to make a career change, planning their career or transitioning to retirement. Read more.

Newsletter articles

My experience with career transition

By Mark Aitken, Nurse & Midwife Support Stakeholder Engagement Manager

Mark Aitken tells his own story of career transition in his 30-year nursing career.

Decorative image: Young midwife

Since Nurse & Midwife Support started in March 2017 we have heard from nurses and midwives wanting information and support on how to change their career or do a different job while remaining in their profession.

Many nurses and midwives I meet on my travels talk about their careers and are curious about how I landed such a great job!

Like many nurses and midwives, my career has had many twists and turns. I’d like to say I planned every stage, but that would stretch the truth! Sometimes I followed my passion for work I wanted to do, and at other times someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to take on a role. I have regretted none of my decisions and have had a varied and interesting career. The one constant has been that I have always remained a nurse.

If you had asked me 30 years ago what my career would look like, I would have said my goal was to be a great nurse doing interesting work, contributing to quality patient care and supporting my colleagues. And that is what I have achieved.

30 years ago, I did not know what a Stakeholder Engagement Manager did, I’m not sure someone had thought the title up!

Nurses and midwives do interesting and varied work and there are many career choices and opportunities in the field. How do you get that dream job? How do you take that step into the unknown to do something new?

My approach has been to find a mentor. I have identified people that I admire in the profession, tapped them on the shoulder and asked if I could buy them a coffee and have a chat about their career pathway and how they got to where they are.

They have been generous, supportive and given me great advice. They usually bought me the coffee! Many have become friends and continue to give me guidance on my career.

Now I enjoy buying my colleagues coffee and providing career advice and mentorship.

Career transition requires planning and careful thought. You don’t want to take a spontaneous leap and regret your decision. Sometimes it requires more study or you may take a pay cut but do more fulfilling work or achieve a work-life balance.

Nursing and midwifery provide us with a broad range of knowledge, skills and experience transferrable to widely varied jobs.

Assessment, planning, coordination and completion of multiple tasks, problem-solving, reacting to the unexpected, reviewing data, clear thinking and evaluation, communication are among the many skills that are readily transferable to other areas of nursing or midwifery.

Look after yourself and each other. Your health matters!


Changing lanes

By Nelly, Registered Nurse

Experienced nurse Nelly discusses how changing her perception of her skills and abilities led her on a new career path.

Decorative image of a group of counsellors

As much as I felt I need to, I lacked the imagination or energy to change. I couldn’t visualize alternatives. I remember the restlessness and disappointment that defined that period. In hindsight, I could have been kinder to myself. How? Well, I wasn’t open-minded around what I could do as a nurse. I kept searching vacancies in my specialty area. I was disappointed with the results and stayed stuck in an unrewarding job.

Acknowledging the skills I had gained over my career and rebuilding my self-worth enabled me to embrace change. I am surprised and grateful to people I knew who suggested jobs they thought I could do. Their suggestions differed from my own perceptions and my earlier experience of nursing.

Other people can often offer valuable insight into a career change: they can be mentors, coaches, colleagues, friends, family or counsellors. Listening to others can provide insight and inspiration.

When my current role came up, at first I thought I wasn’t qualified to do it. However, I had some skills required for the role and the capacity to learn others with time and attention. My job has proved rewarding in both learning new skills and opening my mind to how roles in nursing can be diverse and challenging.

A nursing career encompasses lifelong learning and adaptability. It nurtures curiosity and the art and science of helping others. In the twilight of your nursing career, ensuring your skills are passed on to ensure the future of the profession is as important as at any stage in your working life. Acknowledging the value of your skills and experience can enable you to plan for retirement with a sense of accomplishment and ease.

If you're considering making changes to your career and you need to talk, our service provides free and confidential support 24/7. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.


Why great nurses make terrible managers (and what you can do about it!)

By Nicole Nash-Arnold, Nurse Manager HQ

Nurse Manager HQ’s Nicole Nash-Arnold discusses how she stumbled but found her strength as a nursing manager.

Decorative image of person working at desk

In nursing and midwifery, the clinical cream rises to the top. Our best nurses and midwives are promoted to management positions.

So if you’re a great nurse or midwife with excellent clinical skills, sooner or later you’ll probably be tapped on the shoulder to become a manager. And you’ll probably discover that great nurses or midwives don’t necessarily make great managers.

I know, because that’s exactly what happened to me.

Early in my career, I fell in love with perioperative nursing. Once I stepped into the inner sanctum of the operating theatre, I never wanted to leave. I become one of those nurses who could handle any case that came through the door. I was skilled, I was confident and I was good with patients.

Naturally, I was noticed and promoted to a nurse management job.

Suddenly I went from being a nurse who could handle a multi-trauma to a nurse manager who couldn’t handle anything. I was 26 when I took up my first management role. Overnight I became responsible for 170 staff. I couldn’t remember to pay my own power bill, yet I was expected to handle a multi-million dollar budget.

I made so many mistakes. I absolutely hated overseeing the data. I hated numbers. And the whole time I was using this tyrannical, ‘my way or the high way’ management persona that wasn’t me at all. I felt like an imposter, totally consumed by a cloud of self-doubt. It was the only time in my career that I considered giving up. I crashed and burned.

I so desperately wanted to go back to being a nurse, which I felt I was actually good at.

I struggled along for a few years until I started having babies, and something had to give at work.

I moved to a role as an After Hours Coordinator at the largest private hospital in the country. That move was one of two things that probably saved my nursing career. I remember making a conscious decision that this job would be different. Things couldn’t get worse, so I felt like I might as well try doing things another way.

With a different kind of pressure in that role, I had more freedom and I started to experiment. That’s when I really found my own authentic leadership style. I discovered that I could be myself and still be a leader. I started using my strengths to open doors and get people to do things for me. I started to remember what it felt like to be good at my job. 

During my 15 years in management, I’ve realised that my story is typical. New managers come to me and say the same things over and over again: “I’m a fraud. I’m not cut out for management. I want to go back to nursing, which I was good at. There’s no education for me and no support.”

Nurse or midwife management requires a very different skill set than nursing or midwifery. Yet we promote our best nurses and midwives and expect them to be the best managers. We throw them in the deep end and expect them to swim! It’s a recipe for disaster.

After getting over that first major speed bump in management, I learned to love it and I was highly motivated to figure out how to make a success of it. That was when the second thing happened that saved me: I accidentally found a Career Coach. 

After finishing up as an After Hours Coordinator, I moved into an Assistant Director of Nursing role and the organization provided support for nurse manager transition through an Executive Coach.  I was confronted: I felt like I was in therapy!  It was totally different from any kind of professional development I’d ever engaged in before.  But when I embraced it, what I realized was this was the first education that I’d ever done that was all about me: I got to define my goals, and I reached them faster as a result.  I was supported to effect change, and the cloud of self-doubt was kept at bay by an objective outsider.  Kay, who was an experienced executive nurse leader, challenged my assumptions, broadened my perspective.  Decision making takes courage, and there are many crossroads. Kay helped provide clarity: two heads are better than one.  Coaching reduced my stress, brought balance and built resilience.  Since then, I’ve tried and tested different techniques for conquering the areas that don’t come naturally to me (to this day, I cheat with an automated spreadsheet to calculate KPIs).

I continue to invest my time and energy in initiatives that provide training and support for nurse managers. By growing better managers, I hope we’ll see an industry revitalised by a generation of passionate people in healthcare—not only great nurses, but inventive thinkers, talented strategists and effective leaders.


This is an edited extract from the e-book Nurse Management Unpacked: 5 systems to save your sanity and make you a star. Find more training and support for nurse managers at Nurse Manager HQ.


Podcast: Coaching and professional development
career transition podcast cover

Many nurses and midwives contact Nurse & Midwife Support seeking support to make a career change, planning their career or transitioning to retirement. We thought this would be a great podcast topic, so we’ve invited two experts who are passionate about career planning to share their wisdom with you!

Our podcast guests are Sue Walker and Nicole Nash-Arnold. We discuss how nurses and midwives can plan their career transition and make career changes to ensure they are doing a job that makes their heart sing.

Listen to Episode 8: Career transition — Your career matters!

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