Mayor Andy Burnham in NHS staff tuition-fees-paid pledge
Graduates who commit to the NHS in Greater Manchester would get their university tuition fees paid under plans by the new metro mayor.
Andy Burnham explained the scheme at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Conference in Liverpool.
The former Labour health secretary said his "Grow Your Own" scheme is a radical way to retain staff.
There was no official response from the RCN but a spokesman said the speech was well received by the conference.
Mr Burnham's plan comes after, as mayor, he took control of the region's £6bn NHS budget.
"These are tough times for nursing and new thinking is required if we are to break out of this downward spiral. In Greater Manchester we want to do things differently," he told the nurses.
"I want to give our NHS stability. If Greater Manchester is to succeed in the future we need to do much more to retain our graduates, and fill the highly skilled jobs we need to improve services and grow our economy."
Last year Greater Manchester became the first part of England to control its own integrated health and social care budget.
Mr Burnham stressed: "I have asked the NHS to explore the establishment of a scheme whereby graduates will receive help paying off their tuition fees in return for a commitment to work in Greater Manchester's NHS for a set period of time after graduation."