Posted Monday 1 August 2022
Two leading Kingston University academics who have devoted their careers to sharing their specialist knowledge with generations of students have retired after more than 90 years' combined experience in their fields.
Dr Julia Gale has spent half of her 26 years at the University serving as the Head of the School of Nursing, while Professor Jane Lindsay has been with Kingston since 1991, most recently serving as Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the former Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education.
Growing up in the small fishing village of Ardglass in Northern Ireland, Professor Lindsay quickly became interested in social issues and helping others. "My mother was very involved in women's groups and was also a lecturer. She always emphasised the importance of doing things with people to make everyone's lives better. That inspired me to do social service at school, helping in a children's home and visiting elderly and disabled people to do their shopping – all during a time when war was raging in Belfast," she recalled.
Dr Gale was similarly influenced by her parents, with her mother being a nurse and her father running a chain of restaurants, a venture her mother later joined. "Looking back, I picked up an interest in nursing and caring for people from my mum and the business acumen from my dad, which I've been able to translate into my nursing career," she said. "I wasn't conscious of how much of an influence that was on me until much later in life when I could reflect on the type of person I am and what drives me."
After her first degree, Professor Lindsay began volunteering full-time with homeless charity Cyrenians to help people with serious mental health conditions get back on their feet. It was there she met a probation officer who inspired her to follow that career path by completing professional training. She worked in several prisons and in the community in Northern Ireland as a probation officer before volunteering with Volunteering Service Overseas (VSO), who sent her to work in Uganda for two years to help deliver community services for people with HIV – a topic she became interested in when working in prisons.
"I was invited back to The Aid Support Organisation (TASO) in Uganda after 20 years in 2007 to see how it had developed and it was a real highlight to see everybody so committed to making a difference and responding to people who had HIV. I learned from Ugandans that, when times are tough, you can still always find joy," she said. Subsequently, working in probation in London, Professor Lindsay also developed a national programme for male perpetrators of domestic abuse and a woman's safety service for victims, as well facilitating accredited group work programmes for men until 2017.
Raised in Epsom, Surrey, from the age of two, Dr Gale trained as a nurse at the Epsom Cluster, a group of five large mental health hospitals within the area, before furthering her education. She became the youngest ever ward sister at Manor Hospital in Epsom at the age of 23, just three months after qualifying as a nurse.
A couple of years later she was promoted to nursing officer, giving Dr Gale her first taste of education. "I initially found the transition of moving from clinical practice to education difficult. Something suddenly clicked though and I never looked back, remaining in education from that day. I always strive to do, and produce, the best and make a difference," she said.
Both joined Kingston University in the 1990s. Professor Lindsay was appointed in 1991, initially to help train students to become probation officers. She later went on to be a principal lecturer, Head of the School of Social Work and more latterly Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the then Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education. She also helped develop and lead the practice teaching and post qualifying programmes in social work.
Dr Gale was one of the first academics transferred in to be part of the Faculty, which was formed in 1996 in partnership with St George's, University of London, initially as a senior lecturer in nursing. She then moved through the ranks, becoming a principal lecturer, the Faculty's lead as Head of workforce development and Associate Dean for Quality for eight years ahead of her appointment as Head of the School of Nursing in 2009. She was responsible for leading on the creation of the University's School of Nursing as it exists today.
"When I took over the role as Head of Nursing, there was essentially just a group of staff and no School so I went to the Dean and requested approval to create an actual School of Nursing. Ten months later in January 2012, it was launched. It proved to be a great decision, with the School and its students experiencing much success ever since," she said. At the same time, Dr Gale successfully tendered for the University's adult nursing provision with NHS London and scored top in London, while she also launched Kingston's first degree and master's programmes in pre-registration nursing.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought fresh challenges for Dr Gale and her team, who had to change how they delivered teaching overnight, keeping staff and students safe while mobilising to support the health service. "We were working 24/7 as we needed to move fast, get some of our students out on the frontline, adapt the curriculum and find new placement opportunities as most providers were pausing them," she said. "We were also constantly adapting to changing government and Nursing and Midwifery Council directives, as well as dealing with understandable concern from parents, who were nervous about us sending their son or daughter on to the frontline. We reassured them and explained this is what nursing is all about and what they're training for."
Professor Lindsay, meanwhile, said seeing social work students overcome challenging circumstances to succeed had given her the greatest joy in her academic life. She also takes enormous pride from the fact that almost half the current academic staff teaching social work at Kingston University were once her own students. "It's amazing to see so many of them going on to make a difference to students' lives themselves. I often forget I taught some of them, but they always remind me," she said.
Alongside enjoying some of their hobbies in retirement, Professor Lindsay will retain her links with Kingston University as an Emerita Professor of Social Work, while Dr Gale is hoping to explore some project ideas she has for nursing, having overseen the University being named top in London for nursing for six of the past eight years in the Guardian University Guide. "We've built a great reputation thanks to the team around us. Our aim has always been to do the best we can to produce the best students for the community of nursing," she said.