Born in England in 1947, Lesley came to Adelaide with her family when her father was recruited to the Engineering and Water Service as a Civil Engineer. She attended Sturt Primary School and Seacombe High School. Lesley began nurses training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1965. When she graduated, she worked as a Staff Nurse for six months in the Cardiothoracic ward. Then, on the request of D’Arcy Sutherland, went and worked in B4 Cardiothoracic Recovery for two and a half years.
In 1971, she resigned and spent two years working overseas. First, three months in Michigan before going to England and Europe. In Italy she did private nursing for 5 months, which took her all over the country.
On her return to Adelaide, D’Arcy Sutherland again organised with Matron Kennedy for Lesley to work at Royal Adelaide Hospital. At this time, she completed a 12 month Royal Adelaide Hospital postgraduate course in Intensive Care Nursing– three months focused on coronary care and nine months on intensive care nursing.
For the next ten years, Lesley worked in Cardiothoracic Recovery Unit. When she started, the Unit had five Registered Nurses and operated on only three cases a week. In 1970, she was present when the Unit performed its first coronary-artery vein graft.
During that time, I was a registered nursed in B4 but I relieved as charge nurse so I had that experience. Then I was taken out to do supervising and when the Charge Nurse in B4 left, I was appointed as Charge nurse in B4. After 2 years in that position, I was appointed to Administration to assist the RAH in preparing for its first hospital accreditation.Lesley Long, Oral History, 1998
After preparing for the hospital’s accreditation, Lesley was appointed in 1985 as the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s Recruitment/Accreditation Coordinator. This was during a time of nursing shortage at the hospital. She was then appointed as a Clinical Assistant Director of Nursing for the Medical Division in 1986. She began studying for her Masters at the University of New South Wales in Health Administration, completed in 1994.
In 1986, she was elected to the Royal Adelaide Hospital Board of Management. She was the Board’s first publicly elected non-medical staff member.
I was involved with accreditation work that took me all around the hospital. Normally, nurses get little opportunity to move around the hospital and this gave me the opportunity to appreciate the other side. I decided to stand for election as the non-medical representative on the Board so that I could learn more about the workings of the hospital. I realised that if I were to represent other departments, I would have to know more about them, and this I was keen to do.Lesley Long, Scanner Magazine, Spring 1987
In 1993, Lesley was appointed Director of Nursing of the Royal Adelaide Hospital Cancer Centre. The Cancer Centre was designed to be a cohesive multidisciplinary team, that delivered international best standard care to patients from across all of South Australia, Northern Territory and into western New South Wales. The Centre provided the only public radiotherapy centre in South Australia.
Her close relationship with the Cancer Centre stretches back over twenty years and one of my favourite memories of working with Lesley was when she was the Nursing Director of the Cancer Centre in the 1990’s. “As one would expect, she ran a “tight ship” and was a daily presence in the cancer wards and departments where she led from the front, providing leadership and support to the staff. She wasn’t afraid to pitch in and help where it was needed – so washing a patient and making a few beds was typical of the role modelling that she demonstrated and instilled in her cancer nurses. Lesley made it a point to be seen and to be known by her nurses. She was greatly respected for this and her desire to have a positive and mentoring relationship with the nurses led to the Cancer Centre becoming a source of future leaders in the years during and following her involvement with the unit.Graham Rumsby, Nursing Director, Royal Adelaide Hospital Cancer Centre, General Managers Bulletin, 2010
Lesley was also a Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Adelaide, member of the Advisory Team for the Graduate Diploma of Oncology Nursing and supervised Masters and PhD students. She was on many Committees and Boards including the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, DHS Senate, and the SA Health and Medical Research Advisory Committee
In 1994, Lesley was instrumental in implementing the Breast Care Nurse role, as part of the Breast and Endocrine Unit, which came under the organisational reasonability of the Cancer Centre. This position became the model for the National breast Cancer Centre Breast Care Nurse demonstration project.
Lesley was also heavily involved in The Joanna Briggs Institute for Evidence Based Nursing from its conception in 1996, working with its founding Director, Professor Alan Pearson. She was Chair of its Board of Management for many years.
When she was Director of Nursing and a member of the JBI Management Committee, Lesley accompanied me, Tiffany Conroy and the Chair of the JBI Management Committee on a trip to Shanghai to attend the launch of our first Chinese Centre at Fudan University. When we were sitting in the hotel lounge, Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson walked in and sat on the sofas next to us. Lesley called over the waiter and said “isn’t that a famous person over there?” The waiter said something that we couldn’t understand – but we eventually deciphered “Schindlers list”. Lesley became very animated and got Tiffany to pretend to be taking a photo of us – but to make sure that Liam and Natasha were included. The end result is a photo that suggests that Lesley was a close friend of these two stars! A very typical story of Lesley’s brilliant sense of humour and willingness to always have a go! Match that with her determination to innovate and her attention to acknowledging RAH staff – I will always remember her trundling around every year, with a trolley, distributing Easter eggs and Christmas cakes.Professor Alan Pearson AM, former Executive Director, The Joanna Briggs Institute, General Managers Bulletin, 2010
In 1998, she was appointed Director of Nursing, Anaesthesia, Allied Health and Patient Care services. Recognising the value of leadership programs, Lesley brought the UK RCN Clinical Leadership Program to SA and recommended Meg Lewis as a Local Facilitator in the first cohort of the program.
Former CEO of Royal Adelaide Hospital, Associate Professor Kaye Challinger, first started working with Lesley in A4, Cardiac Surgical Area:
In all of the years since then I have continued to work with Lesley and I can say that she is a person of great integrity and over several decades has provided considerable leadership and commitment to nursing, both at Royal Adelaide Hospital and in a broader sense across the State. Lesley is a caring, honest person and has always performed her work with the utmost sense of responsibility for the hospital, the nurses who work there and for nursing as a whole. She has developed strong working relationships with the medical staff and this has helped the hospital move forward.Kaye Challinger, Chief Executive Officer, General Managers Bulletin, 2010
In 2002, she began lobbying the University of Adelaide to establish a Bachelor of Nursing Programme, working with the Professor of the School of Nursing. Their curriculum was accepted by the NBSA and the programme implemented in 2006.
Lesley was awarded an AM in the 2010 Australian Day Honours. After a forty-five year association with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Lesley retired in 2010 to undertake a research project with Professor Alison Kitson into the nutrition of patients at Royal Adelaide Hospital. She also became the Clinical Trials Coordinator for the Joanna Briggs Institute, working with the Cochrane Centre for two years. She was appointed the title of Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide.
Lesley produced a book on the History of Royal Adelaide Hospital to celebrate its 175-year anniversary. She continues her connection and interest in the history of the hospital, as the Chair of the CALHN Health Museum Committee.
Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum