From actress to psychologist: How Alex McCord is living a new dream at Feros Care
Today Alex McCord combines two part-time roles at Feros Care, while studying a Masters of Professional Psychology and raising two teenage boys. It’s a far cry from her 20 years as an actress in America. Here, Alex shares why she’s proud to have switched careers to join Feros Care, and how others can do the same.
When Alex sits down to share her journey, she’s surrounded by Feros Care residents knitting for the homeless. As Positive Living Coordinator, Alex organises meaningful activities like this to bring joy and a sense of purpose to our residents’ lives. In her other role as Resident Support Liaison, she works as a mental health clinician, coordinating care plans and grief intervention or hosting group talk therapy.
However, just four years ago, Alex had an entirely different life on the other side of the world.
“For the first 20 years of my adult life I was an actress in the US with a secondary career in retail marketing. My acting work included film, daytime and primetime television and voice overs.”
In 2014, Alex and her Australian husband Simon decided it was time to switch things up. Keen to be closer to Simon’s family, the couple made a life-changing decision. They set off for Australia.
“Saying goodbye to the hustle and bustle of New York and moving to the tranquil Northern Rivers of Byron Bay was as an opportunity for a midlife reinvention. I could never really choose between acting and marketing. So when we moved to Australia, I felt it was time to explore something completely different.”
That ‘something’ was psychology; a discipline Alex had always been interested in.
“I enrolled in psychology and Simon decided to go to law school. I’ve always been fascinated with how the brain works. I’m absolutely loving it.”
As an undergraduate psychology student, Alex worked with Feros Care residents for her Honors research project and soon applied to join us as a carer.
“I was really impressed with how Feros Care was receptive to my research, ideas and the technology I was working with. Since joining as a carer, I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to change roles and take on more responsibility.”
Joining Feros Care after more than two decades in entertainment, Alex offers her advice to others embarking on a new career in aged care and disability.
1) Never be afraid of a midlife career change
“There are so many reasons to embrace a new career. Opening up the brain to new learning not only expands our professional opportunities but improves our mental health and wellbeing.
I’m exploring all the pathways psychology can offer. I’m loving the opportunity to broaden the scope of the mental health services we offer with the new aged care quality standards.”
2) Do a certificate in aged care
“No matter which role you’re applying for, obtaining a clinical certificate is invaluable. I did a Certificate 3 in Aged Care at TAFE while I was studying for my undergraduate degree. It’s fantastic that so many managers and corporate staff have been carers at some point. This practical bed-side knowledge and understanding of our residents’ holistic needs makes for a richer experience for all our clients.”
3) Be bold! Find an employer who will embrace you for who you are
Alex urges people to do their research to ensure they’re connecting with employers who will empower them and welcome their transferable skills.
“One of the great things about Feros Care is our ethos of ‘grow bold.’ The recruitment team could have perceived my unique background as a little overwhelming. But Feros Care welcomed me into their family. We have immense room to grow and develop. This speaks volumes about Feros Care – people aren’t pigeon-holed here.
At the same time, Alex says that it’s important to realise that different employers have their own challenges.
“At Feros Care, our high-care facility at Bangalow has a number of residents with dementia, as well as our dementia support unit at Wommin Bay in Kingscliff. This can be confronting for care workers and support staff, and our managers are continually working on improving support and communication in this space. From the top down, I feel we have the right managers and staff in place who are committed to identifying areas of improvement and implementing those changes. People here are visible, accountable and passionate about what they do. This open culture presents an opportunity for me to use my transferable skills to help shape change.”
Beyond the Horizon
Alex is set to graduate as a provisional psychologist in December, and she plans to keep up the momentum and pursue a clinical PhD.
“I can see myself doing a combination of clinical practice and academic research. There’s a lot of breakthrough research coming out in geriatric psychology, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”