As far as nursing goes, there aren’t many better places to work than the United Kingdom. Nurses are given a competitive salary: the minimum wage for entry-level jobs is 24,000 pounds or about 31,000 US dollars. It won’t be hard to find jobs, either. Demand is always high for foreign nurses in British hospitals.
Public healthcare in the UK is handled by the National Health Service (NHS), one of the largest single-payer healthcare systems in the world. The NHS ensures that its staff, including nurses, are given adequate benefits, including time off and a flexible working schedule. It also gives them access to in-house training courses to help them broaden their skillsets and seek out more lucrative positions.
While the NHS is responsible for the vast majority of the country’s healthcare, there are also many private hospitals. Since these are generally more expensive, you might find higher-paying jobs here.
This guide will set you on your way as we talk about the basic steps on how to become a nurse in the UK.
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Steps to Becoming a Nurse in the United Kingdom
1. Get a Nursing Education and Work Experience
In order to become a nurse in the UK, you’ll need to prove that you’ve undergone relevant training. This usually involves a three- or four-year bachelor’s degree or a certificate in nursing. While there isn’t a list of accredited schools or programs, your degree needs to be equivalent to a UK foundation degree or higher. This roughly equates to an associate degree in the US.
If you choose to study in the UK, you’ll have to specialize in one of four fields: children’s nursing, adult nursing, learning disability nursing, and mental health nursing. Each of these specializations trains you both in the fundamentals of the profession and in field-specific skills. King’s College London, the University of Manchester, and the University of East Anglia are some of the best nursing schools in the world, let alone the UK.
The advantage of more specialized education is that it allows you to work closer to your own interests and increases your value in a specific job market. You also have the option to do a ‘dual field’ degree, which means that you’ll be studying two out of the four fields.
Unlike some other countries, foreign nurses who want to work in the UK need at least a year of experience in their home country or elsewhere. This is to ensure a minimum standard of care in British hospitals. Besides this, you’ll also need to be a registered nurse in your country.
2. Take an English Proficiency Test
Nursing is one profession where nursing skills are absolutely essential. You’ll constantly be talking to patients and doctors, often under very stressful conditions. Because of this, it’s imperative that you have a degree of fluency in English.
To become a registered nurse in the United Kingdom, you’ll need to take either the IELTS or the OET. For the IELTS, you’ll need to achieve a minimum score of 6.5 in writing and 7 everywhere else. For the OET, you need to get at least a C+ in writing and a B everywhere else. Note that the TOEFL is not accepted.
3. Apply Through the Nursing and Midwifery Council
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is responsible for regulating the nursing industry in the UK. It maintains a registry of all nurses who can legally practice within the country.
To apply to be registered with the NMC, you’ll need proof from your country’s regulatory board that you’re a registered nurse at home. You’ll also need to find a referee who’s willing to vouch for the fact that you have at least a year’s worth of experience. This will be someone from the place you’ve previously worked in. Besides this, you need to submit documents like your proof of English proficiency, your diploma, etc. It’s best to check with the NMC’s website for a complete list.
To become registered with the NMC, you need to pass the Test of Competence. Part one of the exam tests your numeracy skills, while the second part examines your knowledge of your chosen field. Separate tests exist for children’s nursing, adult nursing, learning disabilities nursing, and mental health nursing. Practice tests and reviewers are available online.
4. Find a Job
After becoming a registered nurse in the UK, the next step is finding employment. This is a requirement to apply for a work visa. As mentioned, most healthcare professionals in the country work for the NHS, so the best place to conduct your job search is its website. There, you’ll find a massive database of openings (currently, there are over 30,000 live jobs). You can filter by job type, location, salary, and many more. The NHS also posts articles with useful tips on how to find a job.
Outside of this, you can also look for jobs through sites like Indeed, Nurse.com, Glassdoor, and others. If you studied in the UK, your university’s network can be a valuable tool.
5. Secure a Health and Care Worker Visa
The UK has a special visa for health professionals called the Health and Care Worker visa. To apply for this visa, you’ll need to secure a certificate of employment from a hospital that’s recognized by the Home Office.
You’ll also need proof of English proficiency and to be paid a minimum amount that’s dependent on your job. This latter requirement exists to protect foreign workers from exploitation and to keep the wages of healthcare workers in the country up.
A visa of this type lasts five years. If you want to extend it or change employers, you’ll need to submit another application. All applications must be done online through the UK government’s website.
I hope that you found this article on how to become a nurse in the UK informative and helpful. Feel free to also check out the UK Scholarships Page for more information about studying in the UK!