The Nurse First programme is busy recruiting its second cohort of nurses and allied health professionals, keen to explore social entrepreneurship in a very practical way.
The free programme, billed as being 'like no other programme you've ever been on', is delivered by the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), Buckinghamshire New University and the Shaftesbury Partnership. It combines a post-graduate diploma in social innovation and an experiential leadership programme.
It is challenging for participants and organisations alike: 21 days out of the workplace, seven, three-day residential workshops, including cross-fertilisation challenges in different organisations far removed from the NHS.
Yet it does seem to live up to its billing of providing something different and rewarding. The current group, more than halfway through their year, are saying: 'The course gives you "permission" to be creative, and to develop aspects of care in a manner you never normally would be allowed to. I came on the course intending to find £1000 to develop a local project, I am now looking at finding £25,000 for a national project - and feel more confident and able to this than when I was considering a smaller scale initiative.'
Another participant (a dietician rather than a nurse ) said: 'Initially I was dubious but I can honestly say this course has helped me appreciate how everybody can make a difference to patient care; we just need to be open to ideas as to how we can do things differently.'
This is important for the health service. People are constantly questioning whether there really is any potential in NHS staff for the kind of fundamental, daring change that will be needed if we are to transform the health service with little spare money and an inherited rigidity of culture.
These individuals - and many similar ones on the QNI's Fund for Innovation programmes - show there is, remarkably, still an appetite for change in health staff. They are a much more important asset to the NHS than all the buildings and equipment put together.
Rosemary Cook, director, Queen's Nursing Institute