Burnout: The end or the beginning? – Liam’s Story

Burnout: The end or the beginning? – Liam’s Story

Burnout: The end or the beginning? – Liam’s Story

Have you ever thought you wanted something in your career only to achieve it and you are left wondering what the held did I want this for? 

I’m Liam and I want to share my story to help you evolve within yours!

For a decade as a nurse, I prioritised the accumulation of clinical skills, knowledge, and expertise, like many of us have been taught to. 

I chased accolades, post grad’s, collecting letters after my name, all the competencies in hope that they would bring me more fulfillment, more confidence, more opportunities. 

And whilst more skills did equate to more opportunities and I did build more confidence in my clinical abilities, the more I acquired and grew my career from RN to NUM, the more stressed, overwhelmed, and unhappy I became. 

I  was so lost, stuck and confused. 

I had everything I ever wanted ( or so I thought).

I had a salary I could never have imagined for myself.  

The ability to impact an amazing team of nurses. 

An opportunity to make change in the healthcare system. 

And Yet...

Internally, I was in constant mental, emotional and physical pain. 

I was numb. 

I dreaded going to work every day. 

I overworked as a NUM, going in early, staying late. 

Every day became a 10–12-hour day. 

I cried a lot (not ashamed).

I worked 50–60-hour weeks and I was still behind. 

I left work as a NUM and went home, to do more work, because I couldn’t keep up with the demands of the role. 

I had a Master of Healthcare Leadership and management for god sake, am I not good at this I would ask myself? Despite improve ward culture and patient outcomes.  

I was what I would call a hot mess express. 

I was what us nurses would call burnt-out. 

I got sick all the time. 

I was so fatigued. 

I had lost my zest for life. 

Wine and food were my soothing pain relief. 

Everything just felt hard, all the time. 

I was what we would call as nurses – burnt-out. 

Can you relate???

I needed help. 

I was on an internship in Fiji for my master’s and I was breaking down. I finally had some space from work, and I was so stressed about going back. 

My partner said – I think you need to talk to someone. 

So with a lot of hesitation, to therapy and coaching I went!

I quickly realised, I had spent my career building my clinical capacity, without prioritising my skills and growth as a human who nurses. 

I mean who teaches us the “soft skills” in life? 

For me – I hadn’t had a lot of good role models, so this was a challenge for me. Maybe you can relate?

I learnt that I had wrapped my identity and my world in my role of being a nurse. I learnt we are human first, nurse second (sounds dumb to say out loud – but how many of us introduce ourselves as nurses and that’s all we talk about)!

I quickly realised, I had spent a decade waiting for healthcare to improve, so that I could finally feel and do better. 

I told myself that when we get more staff, I will enjoy my job more. 

I told myself that when I finally get a manager who supports me and invests in me, I will be happier.

I told myself when my manager leaves, the job will be amazing. 

I told myself the lie that keeps us all stuck in a job that no longer serves us…

When “X” happens, then I will experience “X”. 

When I get a new job, then I will feel less stressed. 

Until my therapist said, Liam a new job is great, but new job, same human brain… ouch – that hit hard. 

In coaching they call this outsourcing our own internal, mental, and emotional needs to the external world, when we believe that the things outside of us, will make us feel a certain way. 

I learnt this life lesson the hard way – NOTHING ever makes us feel a certain way. 

Because our emotional experience of anything is driven by how we think. 

Let me explain…

Between what happens around us and our feeling’s, is our brain and our thoughts. 

If you are anything like me, for a lifetime, you have been told that other people and things can make you feel a certain way. 

For example,

“Hospitals make me feel sad.”

Hospitals are brick structures; they cannot possibly make us feel sad. It is our thoughts associated with hospitals that make us feel sad. 

Example 2: 

Getting my Post Grad Certificate will make me ready and more confident. 

Post Grads are effectively bits of paper. The collection of the certificate does not create confidence. It is out thinking associated with the collection of the paper that makes us feel more confident. 

The penny dropped. 

I had an “Aha” moment. 

Our thoughts, create our emotional experience, drive our actions, and shape our experience of the world. 

This is how the world has worked since its inception, my psychologist offered flippantly. 

He went on to tell me that this is heavily researched in psychology literature and coaching practices globally. 

Between what happens and my feelings, are my thoughts about the thing that happens. 

A circumstance happens in the world outside of my being, my subconscious (survival brain) has a thought about it, that thought (that is subconscious – it just happens without me knowing) creates my emotional experience of that circumstance. My emotions dictate how I show up in my actions/inactions. Those actions/inactions determine my results and experiences. 

When I first burnt-out and learnt this from my therapist and coach at the time, it broke my brain. 

Had I spent my whole life giving away all my power?

Does this mean, that I have a choice in how I think/feel and act in every circumstance I am presented with?


You see your amazing brain is a super-computer. 

It is always collecting information from your life/career and human experience, without you knowing. 

That information informs how you show up in the world. 

It runs on autopilot. Its job is to keep you safe, and operating with the least amount of energy consumption possible. 

That’s why we resist things that challenge us or push us out of our comfort zones, its literally biology. Nothing has gone wrong with us. 

Most of us don’t begin to understand this, until we burnout and we are forced to face ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings, and question what we really want, how we really want to show up. 

When we start to acknowledge that we have a choice in how we show up in our nursing careers and human lives, is when we will start to see our patterns of being, that may or may not be something you want to change. 

Through this process, I came to realise that most nurses don’t need more clinical expertise, skills, and knowledge to overcome the nursing culture and system as it is today. 


My learning and burnout experience showed me that nurses would be better served to invest in and develop the skills, few of us where taught. 

How to be a human, who nurses. 

I don’t need to remind you this, but nursing is a complex and challenging career that exposes us to unfathomable experiences, traumas, and stress, beyond what most non nurses can even comprehend. 

We are a population of incredible human’s, who are trained from our first days at university to be operating in a state of chronic fight or flight. We are collectively wired; due to the high intensity of the work we do. We are constantly on high alert, with cortisol and adrenaline running through our body every day. This becomes our normal way of operating. This is how we cope with the increasing demands of our work. The challenge is no one ( not even you my friend) can sustain chronic stress and hence we see this cycle of burnout within nursing. When stress becomes the norm, we no longer are safe in ourselves, our work, or our experience of the world. 

As my coach tells me, A stressed mind and body cannot be safe and cannot operate to your highest potential. 

I came to the conclusion that our challenge is not in becoming a better clinician, it is in becoming a nurse who build’s their capacity to work in systems that are getting increasingly more challenging to work in. 

This includes us reclaiming our power, creating more safety in our day-to-day life, where we interrupt our stress patterns, regulating our stress and nervous systems so we can work out what we really want, burnout-proofing our career and life, supporting one another in a healing, non-judgemental and empowering way.

My hope for the future is that we can help to heal healthcare, one nurse at a time. 

To help them see what’s possible for them, without the stress, the daily grind and the overwhelm. 

To improve their relationships with themselves, their career, their loved ones. 

To have balance and alignment in their career, whilst normalising the realities of a life lived as a human who nurses. 

To equip nurses with the mental, emotional, stress management and nervous system healing tools to help them build sustainable nursing careers, where they regulate their nervous system, instead of waiting for the system to do so. 

We cannot wait for a time in the future we hope that things get better. 

None of us are guaranteed that future, but we are guaranteed today. 

My journey is one that may resonate with you, or it may not. 

Regardless, my mission today was to help you see that when we assume responsibility for increasing our capacity as humans who nurse, we take back control of our life and career. 

To help you see that burnout can be the end or a beginning, dependant on your conscious thinking about it. 

Today, I have left the hospital system. I work online as a nurse career/life and business coach. I have empowered 400+ nurses globally in our coaching programs. 70K nurses via our High Performance Nursing Podcast and over 10K nurses on social media. I have time and location freedom. I live in Paris (ATM due to my partner’s posting). I have worked from 10 countries this year. 

Burnout birthed this version of me. 

I used the insights, learnings and lessons to become a less stressed and more balanced version of me. 

It’s daily work. 

You can do this to. 

I am not special or unique. 

I gifted myself the support I needed, I interrupted ways of thinking that were keeping me stuck and I build my nervous system capacity for human growth and development. 

It is not an easy, overnight fix. 

It becomes a way of life. 

I believe we either change by design (intentionally) or we design by disaster (burnout). 

You always get to decide, is this the end or a new beginning. 

I would love to hear your insights/aha’s and takeaways from this vulnerable share over on IG @highperformancenursing. 

If you enjoy personal development and want to dive deeper into this work, check our work out @ liamcaswell.com and drop us a line liam@liamcaswell.com

Thank you to Nurse Life Australia for the opportunity! Love your work!

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