Nurse First, announced today by Chief Nursing Officer for England Professor Jane Cummings, will create a new postgraduate programme that will fast track high achievers to registered graduate nursing positions.
It is inspired by the Teach First programme, which aims to attract talented graduates into teaching.
Nurse First will initially be piloted in three areas across England, with the first trainees due to begin their studies in September.
It will help address workforce capacity and support the development of future nurse leaders in key areas, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.
Successful applicants will attend an educational course as well as receive hands on experience and training within the NHS.
Ambitious and committed individuals will then be given the opportunity to enter a development scheme to rapidly progress their careers to leadership posts within five to seven years.
RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies praised the introduction of the programme and said it would help to combat staffing shortages.
“There is a critical shortage of nurses in the NHS and unsafe staffing levels put high quality patient care at risk,” said Janet.
“Measures to increase the number of registered nurses are very welcome and the Nurse First initiative is a positive way to attract talented graduates. Nursing is a hugely rewarding, complex and responsible profession.”
Nurse First is part of the wider NHS Five Year Forward View Next Steps plan, which sets out how the health service will recruit and train the workforce needed to meet the demands of the future population.
The plan includes expanding support roles in areas where shortages mean delays for patients and better use of digital technology and platforms to support patients to manage and improve their own health.
The NHS will also focus on education and training, retention, return to practice, general practice nursing, and the profile and image of nursing.
Janet added: “It is crucial to focus on retaining nurses who are deciding to leave and offer flexible employment to encourage people to return to nursing in the NHS.
“Advanced clinical practice nurses play a vital role and the RCN has begun rolling out a credentialing programme to ensure that clinicians have the right education and skills to deliver advanced care to the public. We look forward to supporting the new ACP framework with our work.”