Career transition: Your career matters!

Mark Aitken
We speak to two experts about how coaching and tailoring your continuing professional development can assist to make that career change you have been craving.
career transition


Listen to Episode 8

Our podcast is also available on:

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Podcast Details

Episode: 8
Guests: Nicole Nash-Arnold & Sue Walker
Duration: 28.59
Tags: Career transition
SoundCloud: Episode 8 with Nicole Nash-Arnold & Sue Walker


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!

My 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.

We discuss how doing targeted training can open new doors, the importance of career mentors and the benefit of discussing how to make the career change you have always dreamed on with a mentor or peer.

Sue and Nicole provide some useful tips and have advice for students just starting out in their career.

We hope you find this podcast useful. If you want support because you feel career-stuck or want tips on how to make a career change, call Nurse & Midwife Support: 1800 667 877.

Happy listening

Mark Aitken RN
Stakeholder Engagement Manager
Nurse & Midwife Support

About Nicole Nash-Arnold & Sue Walker

Nicole Nash Arnold

Image of Nicole Nash-Arnold

With 15 years experience in senior & executive roles, I can read a Profit & Loss better than I can read an ECG. I'm a theatre nurse, I’ve been perioperative educator and manager, run an emergency department and been a nursing director. I have post-graduate qualifications in nursing, coaching and management. Importantly, I continue to practice nursing, clinically. But I understand hospitals and healthcare. I know how nurses think and feel and what worries them. My mission here at Nurse Manager HQ is to provide nurses & midwives professional develop programs and career coaching that transitions accomplished clinicians into empowered leaders. I deliver support that is practical, based in neuroscience & provides pragmatic techniques you can immediately implement: a perfect complement to academic programs. Hundreds of emerging & experienced nurse leaders have engaged with me for help & walked away feeling empowered, confident and re-invigorated about taking on the exciting challenge of nursing leadership to build brilliant nursing cultures & deliver amazing person-centred outcomes.

Sue Walker

Image of Sue Walker

Sue Walker is a Director and co-founder of the Nurses for Nurses Network and the Nursing CPD Institute. As a Nurse Education Consultant Sue is a member of the Education Governance Committee of these platforms as well as a key contributor to the online education platform Continuing Professional Development library.

As a Registered Nurse Sue holds a number of certificate courses, Degrees in Nursing and Health Administration, and a Master’s Degree in Primary Health Care majoring in Palliative Care. Sue has extensive experience both as a clinician, educator, and senior manager in the acute, aged care and palliative care settings.

Sue is passionate about making a difference to the way in which people experience the health care system. “Healthcare should be delivered by competent, knowledgeable, happy individuals to ensure the best possible experience for the recipient of that care. Nursing is a fabulous profession - the backbone of the healthcare system, it is the knowledge and skill of the individual Nurse that will have the greatest influence on the happiness and health outcomes of each and every client.”


Mark Aitken: Hello! And welcome to the Nurse and Midwife Support podcast: Career Transition, your career matters. I’m Mark Aitken, your podcast host for today. I’m the Stakeholder Engagement Manager with Nurse and Midwife Support and I’m a registered nurse. Nurse and Midwife Support is the national support service for nurses, midwives and students. The service is anonymous, confidential and free. You can call us anytime about any issue you need support in relation to: 1800 667 877. Or contact us via the website at

My guests today are Nicole Nash-Arnold, Director at Nurse Manager HQ, and Sue Walker, Director at the Nurses for Nurses Network and the Nursing CPD institute. Welcome, and hello Nicole and Sue!

Nicole Nash-Arnold: Hi Mark.

Sue Walker: Hello Mark.

MA: Great to have you here today and be in the beautiful city of Brisbane, making this podcast. Nicole, please tell our listeners a bit about yourself and Nurse Manager HQ.

NNA: Thanks Mark, and I love how you started this podcast by saying who you were and that you’re a nurse. There are so many nurses that are doing really amazing stuff! That’s a part of what I’ve been looking at in terms of Nurse Manager HQ. My education business looks after nurses that have been nursing for a while, they’ve got a handle on what they’ve been doing clinically, but by choice or otherwise they find themselves more in a leadership or team leading role. Or maybe it’s educating, but that’s really hard. We do a great job at training our nurses clinically, but maybe we don’t do a great job at teaching them how to do the non-clinical parts of their role. So, that’s what I look after.

MA: How exciting!

NNA: Thank you!

MA: I’ve been looking at your work online and we’ve been talking about it, and I think that you’ve been doing some amazing work…

NNA: Thanks Mark!

MA: …mentoring, supporting and coaching nurses and midwives. I’m interested in the coaching element and what that looks like for nurses and midwives who might be thinking about a career change and are not really sure how to go about it.

NNA: Well coaching is a really different way of being educated. We’re used to the didactic way of being educated. In hospitals and health services we’re very familiar with the death by PowerPoint. But coaching is really different because it’s all about you. In the beginning, it can be a bit confronting, because it feels a bit like therapy. But it’s actually about you getting to set your goals and getting someone who’s completely independent challenging some pre-existing notions that you have and really debunking some of those self-limiting beliefs that we bring to our career. A one-on-one coach can un-couple you from that and get you to something new, something different and something challenging without all of the fear and what holds you back.

MA: It’s really relevant, because when you think about a sports person they wouldn’t think twice about having a coach. So why wouldn’t a nurse or a midwife thinking about a big decision in their career, or a career change, engage with a coach to support that process?

NNA: And that’s where education is amazing, but you can’t be educated in that traditional sense when you’re making a big life change because it’s such a personal thing. You’ve got to think about money, your kids, your lifestyle, where you live, there’s a whole load of things that by going to education won’t necessarily help you. Whereas this is a thing where you can really help you get into your own head, and have someone help you navigate that.

MA: Wonderful, thank you for sharing that. Sue, could you please tell our listeners a bit about yourself and your background? And the Nurses for Nurses Network, and a bit about the Nursing CPD Institute?

SW: Well Mark, Cheryl Dezotti my business partner, and I started out in a consultancy practice in 2005. We were providing support services to mostly rural and remote organisations. Wherever we went, nurses continued to tell us how disenfranchised they felt. They had lost the comradery of working together. They had it difficult trying to get access to easily accessible education at a cost-effective price. Cheryl and I looked at one another one day and said, someone should do something about this. Then we thought, well we could do something about that. So, we created the Nurses for Nurses Network. We created it as an online education platform where people could meet their CPD requirements whether that be listening to a live webinar or undertaking a quiz. That has grown, over time. Recently we have created two separate businesses. Now we have the Nursing CPD Institute, which is our online education platform. Huge library of continued professional development: evidence portfolio’s, assistance with reflection, certificate for every session that you do and an exceptional nursing news blog to keep you up to date on all things nursing. Then we also have our conference CPD platform, which we gave the name of the Nursing for Nurses Network. What we do is you get the opportunity to get exceptional conference experiences, but also, they happen in great locations. It may be Copenhagen, it may be Venice, it may be the Gold Coast, where we are today. So, the aim is: superb education but the opportunity to travel and share it with your family and friends, if that’s what you want to do.

MA: How wonderful Sue. When I think about what you and Nicole do I think about how entrepreneurial you’ve both been in seeing an opportunity and creating a business that actually supports nurses and midwives and assists them to grow themselves and to expand their education. So, congratulations to you both! There are some amazingly entrepreneurial people out there, and you are both great examples of that. So many nurses that I meet feel stuck in their careers, and they feel a bit frustrated because they want to do something else but they don’t know what that may be. So how can CPD, such as the CPD that you provide, support them to become unstuck?

SW: People tend to feel stuck because they don’t see any other opportunities because they don’t know what they don’t know. So, by exposing yourself to a broad range of CPD, you get the opportunity to see what’s happening within the profession. Not only what the latest research is, but what other nurses are doing. What other specialties may be becoming a part of the nursing landscape. Continuing professional development is about understanding where our professional knowledge base is going in nursing. But, it’s also about exploring what other opportunities there are in nursing to take.

MA: Absolutely, and I think some people don’t necessarily know what they want to do next. But a course or training can be a great opportunity to put your toe in the water, see if it presses your buttons and creates passion. Then it could be something to pursue, in terms of a career.

SW: You may have always had an interest, you may have always thought, I’m interested in mental health but I don’t understand the basis of the work that I might be doing. So, to skill yourself up on some maybe key mental health issues is one way of working out if it really interests you. If you’re interested in it, it can bring you joy. And that’s what you want, from a staff satisfaction point of view. You don’t want to have to trudge into work every day, doing the same thing and think to yourself, oh please no not another one. It needs to bring you joy, you need to be interested in it.

MA: I think the bringing you joy is vital here. There are so many opportunities in nursing and midwifery. If we don’t like one area, then we can step into another and give that a crack. As I said to you both before when we were catching up prior to the podcast, I’m on a bit of a three-year career cycle, because I like changing up my career. Some people like working in the same discipline for 25 years, but then they might get to that 25-year mark and decide that they need to do something else. So, I think the message that we’re bringing to people today is that there are so many opportunities out there and we can assist you by creating a pathway to change.

NNA: Yes.

SW: Absolutely.

MA: So, Nicole, when you apply a coaching element to that, how would you bring coaching to somebody coming to see you saying:

“Nicole, I feel stuck in my career. I want to do something else, but I don’t know what that is.”

How would you help them create that?

NNA: Well I think that Sue was right insofar as people normally have a bit of an inkling about what they have always wanted to do. There is always an embedded seed there. That seed just needs to bloom. For example, I’ve been a theatre nurse for most of my career. I’ve had a bit of an interest in becoming a midwife, but for whatever reason that never came to be. It’s always been there, though. But the fear of being a novice was that self-limiting fear, that self-limiting belief that would have stopped me. So, if I had the opportunity to get some CPD and a little bit of on the ground knowledge, maybe that would have uncoupled me from that. But those self-limiting beliefs can be really toxic. I think the thing where what we’re coaching is really different is that, particularly really experienced nurses, come to a coach as a very experienced, competent and fabulous human being that doesn’t need fixing but they need unleashing. In a way. When you get hold of them and you get to enlighten them about that, they start to recognise that while they’re a novice they’re not a novice in the full sense of the word. They will have, already, an enormous plethora of skills that they can already apply. It won’t be like day one, when they were a registered nurse and they couldn’t find a patient to fall over them. It will be a new patient, a new clinical pathway, new practices that will benefit from all of their years of clinical experience and they will grow really quickly.

SW: That’s right, they’ve got an existing skill set.

NNA: They’ve got an enormous existing skill set.

SW: Nursing is an exceptional profession and that’s where it’s also self-limiting, because we think to ourselves, oh I only know about respiratory, or, I only know about surgical. No! You know about therapeutic communication, you know about time management, you know about…

NNA: …the nursing process.

SW: You know about people management, care planning, nursing processes, all of those things! And that can be applied across the spectrum. It applies whether you’re in education or whether you’re in acute clinical or aged care or paediatrics or whatever. So, never feel stuck!

NNA: No.

SW: Your skill set, your core skill set is transferrable across a plethora of opportunities.

NNA: And that’s where the comfort zone is lovely, it’s warm and it’s fuzzy, but it’s actually really boring. Once you move out into that really scary zone, it’s confronting and you have bad days, there will be days where you cry to yourself on the drive home. But you get to reset and rejuvenate that amazing skill set, and you’ll be a really different nurse to your clients, customers, patients and your residents. It will be really different, and you’ll feel really good about nursing again.

MA: Great advice, and it’s really important that people don’t limit themselves and set those limitations. That they actually take the time and recap/reflect on what they’ve been doing and what they want to do next. What we don’t want people to do is take a big leap, and then think, oh my gosh, I’ve made the wrong decision!

SW: Yes.

MA: Planning is really important here, and you’ve both talked about that. Acknowledging and recognising your existing and current skill set, and giving yourself the freedom to dream and think, what would my perfect career look like? Take some time to reflect on that, because the job that you may want to do may not even exist yet.

NNA: No, that’s true.

MA: If someone would have told me 30 years ago that I would be the Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Nurse and Midwife Support, I would have said that I don’t even know what a Stakeholder Engagement Manager does and I don’t even know one. -Laughs-

MA: Many of the jobs that people will be doing in the future, people haven’t even thought of yet.

NNA: Yes, definitely don’t limit yourself. Keep your options open. It’s important, as you were saying before Mark, take the opportunities as they come to you.

MA: Yes.

NNA: If someone offers it to you, why not take the opportunity and test it? What’s the worst that could happen?

MA: Give it a crack.

NNA: Yes, if you don’t like it there will be something else that you can try. You’re not limited or married to your job, you love your profession, but you’re not married to your job and you can try different things until you find the one that brings you joy.

MA: And I think that’s how our careers have been, sometimes we’ve followed our passion and we’ve done work that we’re passionate about. Sometimes people have tapped us on the shoulder and said, would you give this a go? And you think, oh ok, I’ll try. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing, but I’ve always enjoyed the experience. Sometimes after doing it for two or three years I’m like, ok, I’ve done it now. Now I need to do something different.

SW: Keeping refreshed.

MA: Yes.

NNA: There’s a really great TedTalk about that Mark, and acknowledging that you’re a bloke.


NNA: There’s quite a lot of science that says that women keep themselves in even more self-limiting positions. Whereas men will look at a selection criteria and of the 10 stipulated requirements, if they can do three or four they consider themselves qualified. Whereas women will think that if they only have 9 out of 10 they are underqualified. I had a very senior midwife that didn’t want to apply for an after-hours co-ordinating job because she had medical surgery, but because she was a midwife she didn’t have ICU. So, she didn’t apply, whereas the person that got the job was a rehab nurse and didn’t have any of that experience. She had self-limited herself, even though she had relevant skills that were transferable.

MA: Great advice. So, here’s a scenario: I’m a 50-year-old nurse who has worked full time in orthopaedics for 32 years. I want to do something else in nursing and work part-time, as I plan to work until I am 70. What tips and advice would you give to me to assist to plan this? Nicole, we’ll start with you.

NNA: Well I think, as we’ve said before, take a good hard look at your skills. They are not nursing skills, they are life skills and mature skills and they are principals that you will apply. I had a nurse that I coached who was a very experienced operating theatre manager. She had the opportunity to do something completely different, still in health, but it wasn’t in hospitals. She said, oh no I can’t do that! I’ve only ever worked in hospitals. Find some way that you can be really objective. Nurses are like the military, our skills put us in a position where we’re a little bit cynical about everything. We think, well no one’s going to die. So, we can manage our way out of almost any situation. They’re really amazing skills. So, being really objective (to quote Marie Kondo) to find what does spark joy. If this does not spark joy anymore, what was it that once upon a time when you started nursing, kept you in nursing. What makes you get out of being and go, I’m going to this shift and I’m really excited about it! Find something new, that will make you find that again.

MA: Love it. And just for our listeners who don’t know who Marie Kondo is, she’s the Japanese person who makes you throw out all of your junk.


NNA: And shows you how to repack your underwear drawer.

SW: It’s liberating.

MA: So, listeners, if you haven’t heard of her, look her up. It’s very funny.

NNA: You’ll become addicted.

SW: It is addictive, isn’t it?

NNA: Yes, it is.

MA: So, our 50-year-old nurse who is seeking advice thinks that returning to study may assist this career transition. Sue, how would you advise her to return to study?

SW: I was going to bring that up, because she knows she doesn’t want to be where she is, she just doesn’t know where she wants to be. A good opportunity is to start exploring, even at the CPD level, one hour little CDP sessions that can give you an idea of what other opportunities might be out there. Wound care might be your thing; there are a number of wound care opportunities in different area’s (acute care, chronic care, community care etc) so maybe you would listen to some CPD activities on wound care. Or, you might be interested in respiratory. Or renal, but just start looking around and if you see something that makes you think, now that sounds interesting. I wouldn’t mind having a look at that; once you get that little bit of knowledge under your belt have a look around and there may be opportunities in your current working environment that you weren’t aware of. It may be that your organisation will be more than happy to help you move into that field. If you’ve been working anywhere for a substantial length of time, they are invested in you and you are invested in them. You may find that they are more than willing to assist you. But find out what piques your interest.

MA: That’s great advice, and leads really nicely into our next topic which is having a mentor. I’ve had several mentors throughout my career, which I’m sure both of you have. People have inspired me, they’ve guided me, supported me and I’ve often tapped people on the shoulder myself and said:

“hey, look, do you mind if I buy you a cup of coffee? Because I’d really like to talk to you about how you got to where you are.”

I tell you, all of those people have been incredibly generous with their time, their advice, their support and their encouragement. I think having a mentor in your career, or mentor(s) is really important. So, can you talk about how someone might find a mentor Nicole? If they find one, how they might utilise that mentor to support career transition?

NNA: I think there’s two big mistakes people make regarding mentors: number one is that they think they only needed one. Number two is that think they need one in the industry that they are currently in. I think I’ve had about half a dozen mentors, one of them was in my industry. She was a really amazing Nurse Manager, I found her fabulous, and her career has been absolutely amazing. So, she’s been an incredible mentor to me. The others have been really diverse. We already know, live and breathe nursing and health care. One of my mentors was actually my sister, she’s an executive in banking and finance.

Understanding and talking to her about a staffing situation or a problem that I was experiencing- her industry takes a completely different view. Culturally, we’re very different. She would be shocked at some of the things I’d tell her, our employers would handle things very differently, so I found that having a really objective and diverse view was really empowering. Some people have that intuitive feeling that they’ve got to make a political choice with their mentors, like my manager. One of my greatest mentors was a HR manager that reported directly to me. He came from a very corporate world, and he and I spent a lot of time chatting about our really different worlds and I learnt so much from him and yet I was his boss. So, really diverse and heaps of mentors. You’ll learn an amazing amount from them.

MA: Great advice, and I really like the notion that not all mentors might come from the discipline or the profession. Sometimes we need to look for people outside of that to support us with specific skills development issues we may have. Great advice, thank you. At Nurse and Midwife Support we also support students, as you both know. Sue, what advice do you have for students when planning their career?

SW: It’s such an interesting time, isn’t it? You’re so excited to have finally finished the core course and you want to go into practice. The key thing I would say to people is that it’s a little bit difficult at the present time to actually get a job on the Eastern seaboard, in Queensland, at the present time. Certainly, if you want full time work. So, I wouldn’t be fixated on what I wanted to do. The aim after you’ve done your initial training is to put those skills into practice. So, you need to be able to have the opportunity to put those skills into practice. You may need to move from the area that you’re living in to do that, but take a position. Apply for a plethora of them. Take one of the positions that interests you. You are not stuck there for the rest of your life. You are simply starting on building your career. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can then move on and start to choose and be more selective. But, initially, you need to basically find a positon first.

MA: Great advice Sue, thank you. Nicole, if you could go back and talk to the young nurse Nicole and give her advice about career planning and your career, what would you say?

NNA: Well I think the first thing I would say to the 20-something Nicole is to value my strengths and love my weaknesses. The weaknesses were the things that got me into trouble, as a junior nurse, but they were the same things that as I became an experienced nurse and people started to respect me they started to comment on how I was really different in the way that I thought about things. You’ve got to really work through, don’t have that self-doubt, find a way to love that. I’d say, know your values. I wish I’d known my values and found organisations that aligned better with those values. It can be really tricky, if you’re working in an organisation and you don’t really believe in their direction. You’re there for the best for your patient, but you find it really difficult at the organisational level. The third thing I would say is work hard, but play harder.


NNA: We take ourselves very seriously, and the really great organisations that have amazing workplace culture in this country have that mantra. That they work hard, but play harder. I think that that’s really easily forgotten aspect.

MA: Have fun, and laugh!

NNA: Oh laugh, play, be curious! Have fun, own that. That’s not a bad thing.

MA: Sue, is there anything that you would add to that?

SW: Curious is a fabulous term.

NNA: Yes.

SW: So, the advice that I would give is to continue to be curious and don’t worry that you don’t know. It’s ok to say, I have no idea about that. I don’t know that. Tell me about that procedure or tell me about that illness. What we tend to do is we tend to believe is that we have to be all-knowing and all-seeing. That’s not the case. If you’re curious, you’ll get far more out of the job that you’re doing and gain far more knowledge that if you unrealistically pretend that you know everything. Another thing is that if there’s a task or procedure that you want to see, put your hand up. Because the shift finishes at 3, don’t expect that they’re going to bring the procedure forward for you to see. But if you want to see that procedure, put your hand up and get the hours in. That’s the way that you’re going to learn. So, be curious. Never see having to ask for help as an issue. If you don’t know, that’s a great thing, because it means that you’re going to learn.

MA: Great advice, I wish had known the both of you when you were in your 20’s and were those young, wide-eyed, aspirational nurses.

SW: What are you talking about Mark, we are!

NNA: I’m only 27!


SW: I’m still wide-eyed and aspirational.

MA: Well look at who you’ve become, it’s very impressive. Thanks Sue. Well I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of our podcast! We’ve talked about Nurse and Midwife Support, Nurse Manager HQ, the Nurses for Nurses Network and the Nursing CPD Institute. We’ve talked about career transition, feeling career-stuck and getting career-unstuck. We’ve talked about the importance of planning and accessing coaching support. We’ve discussed the importance of tailoring your CPD to facilitate career transition, and returning to study to assist you to get your dream job. We’ve discussed the value of mentors, and tips for students. Any final words of wisdom?

NNA: I think the best thing we can do, as a community, is come together and really contribute to each other. I think Sue and I are really mourning the loss of platforms like The Nurse Path, on Facebook, I was really proud of a really robust community of more than 100 000 nurses on a social media platform where there were absolutely no trolls. I never saw any evidence of any trolls. I mean, in Victoria, Channel 7 can’t even put a photo of a young female footballer online without the trolls coming out. And yet, I never saw it in our community. I’m really proud of us in regards to that. I think that we can create a really amazing community. We hope to fill that vacuum a little bit, you and I, by creating the Nurse and Midwife Emporium so that we can continue that conversation. Where there’s a place where nurses can support each other, peer support is an amazingly empowering thing.

SW: The Nurse and Midwife Emporium is an initiative of both the Nursing CPD Institute, NfNN and Nurse Manager HQ to see if we can maybe fill the void that The Nurses Path left. So, we’re excited about that and I think that that is a great thing.

MA: And I’m excited, and I’m also excited by the generosity that you two have shown for Nurse and Midwife Support and the work that we do. So, thank you very much.

NNA: It’s a great initiative, isn’t it?

SW: Yes, it’s a fabulous organisation and I couldn’t be happier.

MA: Nicole and Sue, you’ve both been fabulous guests and I know that nurses and midwives listening to this podcast will benefit from your advice and words of wisdom. You can find out more at or call us anytime on 1800 667 877. If you found this podcast useful, please share it with other nurses, midwives and students. It’s important, because your health matters. Look after yourselves, and each other. I’ll speak to you next time.