Meet Liam Caswell, a University Clinical Facilitator, sessional marker and small business owner providing career coaching services to nurses and clinicians across Australia from his home in Sydney. He highlights the importance of creating a nursing portfolio career!

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hello everyone, my name is Liam Caswell, an international multi-passionate nurse, creative, podcast host and musician with over 10 years of experience working across 4 different countries and over 15 hospitals and health systems. I originally come from a small town called Hawick, which is in the Scottish Borders, Scotland, famously known in the UK for producing high-quality rugby players and making the cashmere/knitwear costumes for the Harry Potter Films.

I completed my Bachelors of Nursing in Edinburgh, Scotland at Napier university back in 2011. Since then I have been really proactively investing in my career progress, having completed my cert IV, post-graduate certificates in critical care, a dual Masters in International Public Health and Health Management, gained my Neurolinguistic Practitioners Certificate and have attended Brene Browns Dare to Lead course. I love to learn and I am continually scoping out my next course! I now predominantly work as a University Clinical Facilitator, sessional marker and run a small business providing career coaching services to nurses and clinicians across Australia from my home in Sydney.

What made you choose nursing as a career?

I actually originally wanted to study Music (I play Piano and Sing) & Linguistics. I was the (jazz hands) musical theatre kid at school and really loved learning foreign languages including German and Spanish. However, as I progressed through school, I began to explore healthcare as I come from a familial line of clinicians (Mum & Gran) so I chose to leave school and pursue a nursing career.

Ironically, growing up, I had been immersed into the world of healthcare, attending Mum’s work and being around patients from a young age, I knew I wanted to provide a positive patient experience throughout their hospital experience. Funny story, I used to sit in the aged care facility my Mum worked in and watch TV shows with the residents, during this time I actually noticed how many patients had dirty nails from handling their food and I would spend my time before and after school cleaning their nails – the residents loved it and I was hooked.

Maybe I should have pursued a nail tech career!!

You are also a CNE – can you describe this role?

Good Clinical Nurse Educators (CNE) in my opinion are worth their weight in gold and ultimately have the huge responsibility of creating a psychologically safe learning environment for all staff to thrive and grow. I became a CNE as a result of my ICU Background, ALS teaching and then landed the CNE gig.

The role itself depending on where you work is often mammoth, but very rewarding. I have worked as a hospital wide educator – delivering organisational KPI driven education, I have also worked as a medical CNE covering 5 acute inpatient wards. Most recently I have worked as a CNE in a sub acute rehab environment, covering 3 inpatient rehab wards. The role day to day can differ.

It may involve, office administrative work, collaboration with key internal and external stakeholders, calendar planning education in-services and workshops, working at the bedside with staff, coaching nurses through career development opportunities, conducting competency assessments, delivering sessions and low/medium/high fidelity simulation, running hospital orientation, running the dreaded e-learning reports and so much more!

Some of the challenges definitely include a lack of resources, I have had many late nights as a CNE outside of work, trying to make sure goals and deadlines are being met, often CNE roles are the first to be cut back during staffing shortages – something to consider when applying for these roles.

Another challenge is that you by default become the one stop shop for everything and everyone, which is endearing but very challenging at the same time. My biggest challenge as a CNE was recognising that I was going through a fair bit of secondary trauma in my day to day work.

It’s a common phenomenon among educators, where we see poor care delivery, non-evidence based practice which ultimately impacts patient outcomes. This impacts CNE’s as we know it should and could be better, It’s hard to process some things and it’s important to talk to your peers and debrief accordingly.

My favourite thing about being a CNE was seeing my staff grow within their skillset and finally understand something they have been working hard to process – love a good lightbulb moment!

What area/areas of nursing have you worked in?

I have had what is becoming more commonly known as a nursing “portfolio” career, whereby I have moved around and explored so many different areas. Throughout my career, many have asked when I am going to settle, but for me, I am really interested in learning and curious about so many different things, I am definitely a multi-passionate clinician and I don’t like the idea of being boxed into a speciality for the entirety of my career. 

Side note, I think this is something we need to normalise more in healthcare – create your own career path. I started my career in 2011, working in a busy Medical and Admission Planning Unit (MAPU) In the Royal Berkshire Hospital (where HRH Kate Middleton was born) where I cared for acutely unwell adults and gained higher dependency nursing experience.

It is here I cared for a haemodialysis patient, whose daughter, unbeknownst to me was the Intensive Care Unit Matron – eek! During my shift, she pulled me aside and provided some lovely feedback about my practice and care delivery, encouraging me to consider applying to work in her unit! So I did!

I moved into a general med/surg ICU where I worked for a few years, gaining my ICU competencies and completing some post-graduate studies. Then in 2014, I decided to migrate to Australia with my partner (a Tamworthian) to explore this beautiful country and haven’t looked back since! I have worked as an agency ICU nurse throughout nearly all of Sydney’s public and private hospitals, I have worked as a Clinical Facilitator for all major tertiary education providers in NSW and Canberra supporting students throughout their clinical placements.

In 2016, I moved to Canberra as my partner gained work with the Commonwealth. Working in Canberra, I had the privilege to work in some really interesting spaces and roles. I began as an ICU nurse, then moved into Advanced Life Support and COMPASS (Clinical Emergency Response) Training roles, I gained my ALS1 Director qualifications through the Australian Resuscitation Council, I completed my Cert IV TAE and started teaching at the TAFE and got promoted to Nurse Educator of 5 acute medicine inpatient units in a busy CBR hospital. I supported, coached and led over 120 nursing staff to enhance their skills and care delivery.

From there I then acted as a Medical CNC/NUM managing a fab team of MDT clinicians to deliver exceptional patient care. At this point, I had developed a real passion for leadership and influencing positively workplace culture for the broader team. I was lucky enough to receive scholarship funding from the Commonwealth to intern with an NGO in Fiji, as part of my Masters Program, working with vulnerable women & children in urban and rural Fiji communities. I spent 4 weeks living in Suva Fiji, working for the NGO, partnering with global organisations such as the UN, UNESCO, Save the Children and the WHO. It was an amazing experience to work in the communities delivering primary public health care, sexual reproductive health and children’s health education to vulnerable communities.

From here I worked as an Advanced Practice Nurse in CBR’s Nurse Led Walk in Centres, delivering primary healthcare to the community. From here I landed a CNC/NUM role in a specialised rehabilitation hospital, where I was responsible for a team of 50 nurses and around 20 AH team members to deliver excellent care to patients in a subacute setting!

I also volunteered for 2 days per week in another NGO Care Australia, where I put my public health skills to use working in the Humanitarian and Emergency response team. This was a great opportunity, working with CARE offices across the globe, running humanitarian and disaster response simulations online preparing for all types of disasters!

In August 2020, I launched my own online nurse career coaching business, to fill the mentorship and coaching gap that exists within the healthcare industry. This has allowed me to explore so many new skills and help high performing nurses, see their full potential, monetise their skillset and build their own unique portfolio career! I have been busy for sure, but that’s what a nursing portfolio career provides, opportunities to be curious and explore what’s out there! I haven’t even scratched the surface yet!

What challenges did you recall as a new nurse?

When I started as a new graduate nurse, I didn’t enter a grad program (they’re not a thing in the NHS), so I was literally on my own during my first 12 hour day. For me, the challenges were around creating boundaries, taking my breaks and taking the pressure of myself. I was and still am very critical of myself, which is not healthy in the long term – trust me!!

I overcame the challenges by digging deep over the years and paying attention to my inner self talk and critic. Once I could see how harsh I was being to myself, I started to reframe that and realise that I can’t do everything and that’s ok! My peers definitely helped me and in more recent years, working with a career coach and a psychologist has helped me be the best version of myself.

I personally think that all clinicians should have access to a psychologist, we see things that others couldn’t even imagine. It’s important we have the support available to process and work through those emotions, feelings and experiences to refill our cup. You are not alone!

What advice would you give to nurses lacking confidence in themselves?

Know that confidence comes from doing, although its scary, take action, one step at a time. I have noticed (myself included) that many are waiting for the day when we suddenly will become confident.

I can 100% vouch that that day doesn’t come, its an ongoing process and ultimately comes down to, how we talk to ourselves and cheer ourselves on. We have to be our own best cheerleader – no one else will do it.   If you are offered an opportunity to learn a new skill on placement – take it. Maybe you get asked to do a VAC dressing for the first time, take it.

You are considered for a promotion and encouraged by your manager, take it! Know that you will only gain confidence from doing the thing, learning and growing in the process. You have everything you need to do this and be confident in yourself! Trust yourself!

What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

I wish I was better prepared for the emotional and psychological toll that a career in healthcare throws at you. I believe current undergraduate nursing courses and workplace training programs do not cater for the psychological and general wellbeing needs of nurses.

We need to have an education shake up to help nurses understand more about themselves, their strengths, areas for improvement, their emotional triggers, how to process complex situations and how to speak up for safety!

Furthermore, I wish more people normalised and talked about the nursing portfolio career and why in all reality, you will need to pivot, sample and explore different areas to keep your career exciting and alive. This is something that I didn’t hear or come across until much later and I have spent a lot of time feeling like I had failed or not succeeded because of my different roles and jobs. 

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” among many other international bestselling books (Big Magic – is a must read for any creatives reading this) and in one of her viral TED talks, Liz divides the workforce into 2 main categories. First the “Jackhammers”, those who have very clear intentions about where they are going and how they will get there.

They pursue that goal no matter what and are committed to achieving what it takes, usually diving into speciality roles within a discipline. On the other hand are the “hummingbirds”, who I very much resonate with.

Hummingbirds are individuals who are interested in lots of different things, they are not 100% certain of their path, instead fleeting from one thing to the next, sharing their skills, knowledge, wisdom, life experience and influencing those around them, before they fleet off onto the next thing, cross pollinating the world. I used to think that this was a problem until I saw how every time I have moved around in my career, I added value and positively contributed to the workplace, my staff and my patients outcomes.

So whether you are a jackhammer of a hummingbird, know that you are on the right path and that it may not be linear and that is ok, there’s nothing wrong with you!

Here is the link to the TED talk: Liz Gilbert Humming Bird TED Talk

What do all the titles after your name mean?

Great Q! I am a registered nurse, with a Masters of Health Management (MHM), a Masters in International Public Health (MIPH) and have completed a 7 day workshop program to gain my Neurolinguistic Practitioners Certification.  My MHM has been invaluable in helping me lead a high performing team, highlighting to me the importance of ensuring nurse leaders at all levels have the necessary leadership and management skills to thrive within their roles.

I studied the MIPH as I was curious about global health and the inequities that exist. Throughout this course, I studied fascinating subjects such as; Healthcare in Humanitarian emergencies, Health Intelligence and bioterrorism and Disaster Response and Management during pandemics.

The NLP qualification, was partly to help me explore who I am more, whilst gaining the coaching skills to help my peers and clients to work through mindset challenges and self limiting beliefs. I love personal development!!

My top tip for anyone thinking of doing post graduate studies is to really focus on where you want to go in the future and assess whether or not the course will get you there. Also hop onto LinkedIn, check out people in the roles you desire and see what quals they have! If I could I would have studied an MBA in Health as its more focused on senior health exec roles.

What made you decide to become a nursing career coach?

Without knowing it, I have been offering nurse career coaching work for the last 2-3 years. Since becoming an CNE and being responsible for my staff’s growth, I naturally started coaching them, reading their CV’s and Applications, providing tips, tricks and advice to tackle their interviews. It really just grew from there. A pivotal turning point for me was when I was experiencing an episode of burnout and I invested in hiring a career coach.

At the time when I was exploring online, I couldn’t find a nurse career coach and I was a bit disappointed, thinking someone external to health wouldn’t understand. Still, I found a fab career coach and began working with them. I worked through my career to date, looked deeper at my skillset, I completed personality testing and had some really interesting personal and professional discoveries. Working with my coach, we identified my track record and success of helping nurses land grad programs, get the promotion, move into non clinical roles and the lack of nurse career coaches available and it was locked in!

Since then I have completed my NLP certification to improve my coaching skills and completed Brene Browns Dare to Lead course, which equips me with excellent coaching and self-discovery skills.  Currently my career coaching service has helped dover 100 nurses across Australia to find a new job, land a promotion and prep for interview. I have helped nurses across the lifespan of their careers from AIN to DON land new exciting roles, work fulfilment whilst landing a sweet payrise!

What I think is fantastic is that through this process, I have learned so many new skills not necessarily relating to nursing. I have designed a website, learnt how to operate a small business, studied marketing, managed my social media accounts, built excellent relationships with like minded peers, been invited to speak on national ABC radio, launched my own podcast (High Performance Nursing) and been invited to contribute to amazing communities such as The Nurse Break! Anything is literally possible if you invest the time and put your mind to it. I believe in you!

I think a common career roadblock that many nurses (myself included) experience, is that we need to have a piece of paper to offer a service or be “qualified” to do something or apply for that role. When, in fact, all you need are skills in that area, a curious mind and a passion to explore and learn! I say go for it!

What do you find are some common themes or areas that nurses struggle in and seek help for?

The most common theme I identify, when working with nurses 1:1 is that they have a lot of self-limiting beliefs. We believe we are not good enough to apply for that new role or we think that we don’t have enough qualifications to apply for the promotion. We limit our own progression, by turning up the volume on the story that we continually tell ourselves. I work with those nurses to see the amazingly unique skillset that they possess and how they can maximise their opportunities accordingly.

When I work with nurses and we are doing nurse CV/CL/SC and interview coaching, the biggest challenge for nurses is how they talk about themselves or “Sell” themselves. Lets face it during your application writing and your interview, you have to sell your unique skills, knowledge and experience. I work with nurses to show them that they are talented and equip them with the skills to land their next role, marketing themselves to employers. Honestly, its all in the strategy,

I also work with nurses who are feeling stuck, they have got to a certain point in their career and they don’t know where to turn. They want a change, whilst retaining a good income. We work through their options and again dig deep into seeking their true passions, purpose and values, working together to establish a pathway to a new role/business/career opportunity. 

Where can readers find and connect with you?

I am really active on the below platforms and would love to invite you all to join the High-Performance Nursing Community!

You can enquire about working with me @ Liam Caswell Career & Leadership Coaching

Instagram: @highperformancenursing


Listen to the The High Performance Nursing Podcast on Spotify/Google Podcasts/Apple Podcasts/Anchor