A 75 year-old man from Nelson is sharing his story in the hope of breaking down barriers and encouraging more people to pursue their passions, after bagging his dream job as a complementary therapist at a hospice, by not giving up on pursuing his lifelong ambition.
Austin McBride joined Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice as a complementary therapist in November 2021, starting his new job in his mid-70s.
“When Sue Ryder called me to invite me in for the job interview I was gobsmacked as I’m 75 and I never thought I would even get an interview because of my age. I was over the moon when I got the job!”
“I absolutely love my role at the hospice and I get on with all my colleagues really well. Initially I was worried about my age or being a man in this role as it’s a very female-dominated profession – but it hasn’t been an issue at all. The best part is meeting people and making them feel better. In complementary therapy you can only treat one person at a time, so you are able to spend quality time with them and really build a connection.”
To be working in the industry he feels so passionately about means a lot to Austin, who first left school in his mid-teens.
“I left school aged 15 and became an apprentice sheet metal worker, progressing over a number of years to the role of an Aerospace Quality Engineer,” explains Austin. “My whole career has been in the engineering sector; not something you might necessarily associate with complementary therapy!”
It was only when Austin was leafing through a magazine and came across an article about the practice that he decided to pursue complementary therapy as a hobby.
“My interest in complementary therapy was sparked about 25 years ago when I read an article about aromatherapy. It completely fascinated me and I decided to pursue it as a hobby, buying my own essential oils so I could experiment and create blends for family and friends to treat their ailments.”
“I knew that if I ever wanted to practice professionally I would need to be qualified. I wasn’t in a position to be able to give up my engineering job to study full-time at university, but I found a diploma course in holistic therapies at Blackburn College, which I was able fit in the evenings and at weekends.”
It was in 1998, after 18 months of study, that Austin became qualified as a Holistic Health Therapist and a Sports Massage Therapist. He began building a client base locally and gave therapy treatments in the evenings and weekends to clients at their homes, workplaces, and even on one occasion a Post Office!
“One area of practice that I particularly enjoyed was reflexology, which is a type of massage that involves applying different amounts of pressure to reflex points on the feet or hands,” said Austin.
“In 2015 my sister was very seriously ill in hospital and during her illness I was allowed to treat her with reflexology and aromatherapy, which she really enjoyed and it helped her to stay relaxed during what was quite a traumatic time. I noticed that the hospital had complementary therapy volunteers coming in to treat patients and I thought it was brilliant as it was now becoming more accepted within healthcare.”
After retiring from his 50-year engineering career in 2016, Austin had more time to focus on his passion for complementary therapy, and put his skills to good use by volunteering at Pendleside Hospice in Burnley.
“I visited the hospice one day a week and I loved spending time with patients and doing what I could to help them relax and feel more comfortable. During treatments I have found because I am a man, it sometimes helps male patients in particular to feel more comfortable and open up.
“Unfortunately I was unable to carry on my volunteering role during the pandemic, but I continued to focus on my interest for complementary therapy. I became qualified as a Reflexology Lymph Drainage Practitioner, which enables me to work with cancer patients affected by lymphoedema as a result of cancer treatments.
“It was during this time that I came across the advert for a complementary therapist role at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. I applied straight away as I thought it looked so interesting and here I am!”
Austin now visits Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice patients at home to offer gentle therapies including aromatherapy, reflexology and ‘M’ technique (a method of structured touch). He also provides treatments to family members and carers, who are facing anxiety and worry because of their loved ones illness and diagnosis. Austin is really enjoying his new role, and looking forward to developing and expanding the service to reach more people living with life-limiting conditions and their families.
“At my age I’m not looking at another long career for 10 plus years, but if I can play a part in raising awareness of the positive impact of complementary therapies and get more people interested in the profession then that would make me really happy. I like being a catalyst for change and the more complementary therapists we have, the more accessible the treatments can be to people who will benefit from them the most.”
The palliative, neurological and bereavement charity, Sue Ryder, which runs Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in Oxenhope near Keighley, aims to encourage a culture where all its people feel valued for the unique contribution they bring to the organisation. As part of this the charity is keen to attract and engage people from a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, ages and abilities who bring a broad range of knowledge, skills and experience to the charity.
To find out more about the charity’s current job opportunities visit sueryder.org/careers.
This month Austin is raising funds for Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice by taking on ‘Zip the Cow’ – a 270m zip slide from the Cow and Calf rock above Ilkley. To sponsor him, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/austin-mcbride2
Photo caption: Austin McBride is a complementary therapist at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice
About Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice
Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice is located in the village of Oxenhope, near Keighley in West Yorkshire and provides expert palliative care, advice and support for people across Bradford and Craven who are living with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families. We also offer community services for people who prefer to receive palliative care at home.
About Sue Ryder
Sue Ryder supports people through the most difficult times of their lives. Whether that’s a terminal illness, the loss of a loved one or a neurological condition – we’re there when it matters.
For over 65 years our doctors, nurses and carers have given people the compassion and expert care they need to help them live the best life they possibly can.
In order to continue to provide and develop our services and expert care we rely predominantly on income from our charity shops, fundraising activities, and donations from members of the public.
For more information please visit www.sueryder.org