Dr Paula Holt
My name is Dr Paula Holt and I am Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean at the University of Derby, with responsibility for the College of Health and Social Care and the Chesterfield site. I have been a general and mental health nurse for almost 34 years.
I spent the first 18 years of my nursing career working in the NHS as well as serving as an Army Officer with responsibility for mental health in the UK, Germany and on military operations. After leaving the Army I headed up services providing treatment for drugs and alcohol, and led arrest referral and court diversion schemes which ensured that individuals received appropriate care and support for mental health issues when they found themselves in the criminal justice system.
The latter half of my career has been in Higher Education. I have studied for an Honours Degree, Masters and Doctorate in my own time as I have progressed through my career. I am the first in my family to have qualifications of any kind, and I am passionately committed to making access into Health and Care careers, and to university, as inclusive as possible.
I have been working in Chesterfield since joining the University in 2011, offering nurse education from the Chambers and now delivering a range of health and social care programmes from St Helena. As a University we are also developing closer links to enable the University to support business and enterprise in the area.
I am married and have two sons. I enjoy running, walking and sailing (the latter is not so easy living in the Midlands!).
What’s your best memory of the town?
My best memory was seeing two new students joining the new mental health nursing course. They were both parents who had wanted to be mental health nurses for many years. They were overcome with emotion as they walked through the doors of St Helena and told me they never expected to attend University or achieve their dream of becoming a nurse. They were so happy, and told me that their children and families were so proud of them. It is just one of many experiences I have had in Chesterfield that reinforce the importance of supporting people to achieve their goals.
What are your favourite ways to spend your free time in Derbyshire?
I am developing increasing affection for the countryside surrounding Chesterfield. I love to visit Chatsworth, which is always an amazing experience. The grounds look different every time I go. I have enjoyed some great walks with my husband Mike, and our dog Oscar, which usually end up in a warm and welcoming pub.
What development do you think will make the biggest difference to the town?
I am hopeful that the University being sited in Chesterfield will continue to make a significant difference to aspirations of people within the town. We have seen a significant increase in student numbers, particularly those who are the first in their family to come to University, and we are employing an increased number of people to teach and support them. It is really important to us that the people we train and educate to deliver our health and social care services reflect the diversity of the people they care for in Chesterfield. Our experience of having a wide entry gate into Nursing, for example, is that many people are competent and able to study at degree level, but some lack confidence to take that step. We have a lot of mature students, with many in their 40s and beyond, who have wanted to be a nurse for years, but not got around to it. We know that a significant part of our future workforce in health and care will come from the current support workforce.
In terms of other developments the Waterside development is very exciting, as is the prospect of HS2, both of which have the potential for investment and growth that will benefit the town.
How would you describe Chesterfield to someone who has never visited?
I would describe Chesterfield as a friendly market town with real history that is in close proximity to the Peak District and beautiful country parks and walks. It has an excellent transport infrastructure and you can see real investment and growth around the town.
What are the aspirations of your business?
I am keen for the University to become more embedded as part of the community. We already educate more than 300 students here, most are local, and all will be working on placements in health and care settings across the region, many at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. We want to ensure there are career pathways for those who want to get into a health or social care profession, and we are developing new routes and roles, such as the Nursing Associate, to ensure that access to professions is as wide as possible. We want to make a tangible difference to the health and wellbeing in Chesterfield, working closer with the voluntary and independent sector, supporting training, social enterprise and volunteering.
St Helena is a ‘spur’ from our main site at Derby, and so the expertise of academics, business development leaders and researchers from across all subject areas are accessible to Chesterfield, and I want to see relationships develop which support the developing business and enterprise infrastructure that already has momentum in Chesterfield. In particular, we are keen to support businesses that are developing new products related to medical devices and other health technology solutions, supporting with prototyping and business development. We have a wealth of experience across engineering and technology, computing and ‘big data’, logistics and business support that we are keen to offer to the Chesterfield business community.