Five minutes with . . . Barbara Gale

PUBLISHED: 11:49 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:16 01 April 2014

Barbara Gale, CEO St Nicholas Hopisce , BSE

Barbara Gale, CEO St Nicholas Hopisce , BSE


Gina Long talks to the CEO of St Nicholas Hospice Care in Bury St Edmunds

Barbara Gale, CEO St Nicholas Hopisce , BSEBarbara Gale, CEO St Nicholas Hopisce , BSE

How do you create a balance between your work and home life?

I’m not sure if I am very good at that. It’s hard to leave something at the door when you are passionate about it. Like many people, it’s often the middle of night when I have a thought or idea. Modern technology also means that you’re more accessible and I have been known to answer emails at all times of the day (or night). But I do manage to switch it off when I’m on holiday.

Was this the career you always imagined pursuing?

I still sometimes have to pinch myself – I never thought I would be CEO of a hospice. Ever since I started my career as a nurse I’ve always been interested in care of the dying. I worked as a nurse for many years in several hospices. I later trained as a family therapist and wanted to pursue a career working with families with children who were facing death and bereavement. Somehow I ended up doing maternity cover for the matron at the last hospice and found I really enjoyed it. So when a job came up as clinical services director at St Nicholas Hospice Care in 2005 I jumped at it. Eighteen months later I found myself as acting CEO and was appointed a few months later. I absolutely love it.

What’s been the biggest obstacle in your life to overcome?

Some people who know me may not believe this but it took me a long time to believe in myself – that I could achieve things like doing a masters (I’m currently studying for a PhD) and being a CEO. As an only child I was always labelled as shy and not overly academic, so I thought nursing or secretarial work were the best options. It’s only in the last 10 years I’ve believed in myself more and trusted my own opinion.

I think doing the qualification in family therapy was a real turning point for me. The training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve become even more passionate about developing hospice care – to be able to reach more people in their own communities and make hospice care more accessible.

What are your interests outside work?

Another thing I thought I would never say is that I’m now a regular user of a gym and have even learnt how to lift weights! I used to suffer from a very bad back but with the support of a personal trainer it’s so much better and I’ve dropped two dress sizes. Which leads me into my interest in clothes, shoes and handbags.I love shopping with my 23-year-old daughter, Kat, and it’s often in our own St Nicholas Hospice Care shops that I find the best bargains. I enjoy travelling and, as my husband is a scuba diving fan, I’ve been snorkelling in some amazing places, like the Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef.

What’s your favourite time of day?

I’m very much a morning person – more so in the summer – and am quite happy to get up at 5am or 6am to do some work or walk my dog, Murphy.

What personality trait do you respect in others?

Something I aspire to is the ability to see something from somebody else’s point of view, or as someone once said, to be able to stand in someone else’s shoes.

When you think about Suffolk what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

The beautiful countryside and good pubs.

Do you have exciting plans for the future?

I would love to see the Hospice Neighbours service that we have developed at St Nicholas Hospice Care rolled out across the rest of the UK. Some hospices have already started their own Hospice Neighbours schemes and I think it has real potential to offer support to many people who are struggling at home. I also want to try to visit Australia more often because my son Tristan lives there.

If you could have dinner with any five people in the world, who would they be?

Definitely my father. He died when I was 19 and never saw me qualify as a nurse. I would love to be able to discuss with him the challenges of being a CEO. He became vice president of Massey Ferguson in the 1950s, 42 years after starting with them as an office boy at the age of 15. I’m sure Barack Obama would be able to add to the conversation about leadership. Other interesting people would be Dame Judi Dench and I think Miranda Hart would help add some fun. Raymond Blanc’s presence would make sure we had some great food.

And a secret about yourself that you’re prepared to share?

I’ve recently taken up meditation – some call it mindfulness. Just 15 to 20 minutes every morning helps me to keep focused and calm.

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