Working abroad, especially as a nurse, has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I studied a semester abroad in Australia, I always wanted to get my nursing degree, gain the required experience, and head to another country to work and travel! My background is in a neuroscience ward and in the operating room as a circulating nurse. I started my first nursing job in 2012, and 5 years later jet setted across the big pond with my clever web-developer/musician husband.
Why Did You Want to Work Abroad?
What inspired me originally, was when I was on a tour of Fraser Island, Australia during my semester abroad. There was a nurse from Canada who was working an assignment there, and traveling around when she had time off. I never had the feeling, like some, that a career in nursing was the only thing I could see myself doing to be honest, but today I’m glad I stuck with it because it has really taken me places. Of course, it has been rewarding in many other emotional, tear-jerking ways as well.
After marrying my wonderful husband, we took our first Europe trip a couple years later, and just became ravenous for more. Fast forward a couple years later, after doing some research, discussing, and praying about it…we are here living one of our dreams. The whole process took about a year for me to finalize everything, so it does take some planning, patience, and times where you might want to pull your hair out. Also the fact that we couldn’t leave the country for longer than 6 months until Marvin got American citizenship! (which he received in time, yay)
We chose England because it’s in Europe, the language, and Europe has been our main interest for traveling so far (not that the other continents don’t deserve it as well). It’s also closer to home compared to Australia.
What Do I Need to Become a Nurse in the UK?
If you have been working as a registered nurse in the United States for at least a year, with a bachelor’s degree, and have a desire to work abroad, you can become a nurse in the UK as well*!
*2021 Update: Things with registration are ever changing since I did the application for my nursing pin in the UK. I’ve gotten some comments with questions and going back to look on the NMC for outside nurses, you do not have to have passed NCLEX as long as you went to nursing school. I’d still get your RN and take NCLEX because the longer you wait out of school, the harder it will be to pass in my opinion.
The UK’s board of nursing is called the Nurse and Midwifery Council (NMC). More information about the NMC and steps for overseas nurses can be found here.
I’ll Explain My Whole Process in 6 Simple Steps:
- English Language Requirements – When I went through the process, I was required to take an English Test called IELTS. But lucky for you, they have recently changed some requirements, and as long as you have a degree that was taught in English, with some paperwork this can be taken care of.
- Test of Competence: CBT Part 1 – This is a computer-based theory test. With some studying, I think it’s easier than NCLEX because it’s all multiple choice answers with only one answer being correct. This test is done at a Pearson Vue location, so I booked mine right in my hometown of North Carolina.
- Documents Uploaded for NMC Assessment – This is a lot of paperwork they require. The most difficult was getting my transcripts from my university converted into real hours, because credit hours are not accepted. Some other documents needed are a FBI clearance, a health declaration form to be signed by a family doctor, and a couple of work references… just to name a few.
- Once all of your paperwork is submitted, you wait for your Decision Letter to come to your email. I was super excited when mine finally arrived to go forward to the next step.
- OSCE (Observed Structured Clinical Examination) – This last exam is done in one of the testing centers in the UK. I did mine in Northampton, but the other option is Oxford. This exam tests your nursing skills, patient assessment, med administration and documentation, basically in 6 different stations.
- This can be the most difficult of the steps so far due to the rules and time limits. A wonderful company that helped me prepare for the test is Health Skills Training. Gilbert was my instructor and did a great job helping me prepare to pass OSCE the first time.
- Receive your NMC PIN – After you have passed OSCE, you can sign up to receive your PIN to be registered to work as a nurse in the UK.
- Work Visa – To come to the UK from the United States, you need a job to sponsor you a visa before you move and start working. Mine is a Tier 2 General Visa** and Marvin could apply for a visa as a dependent from mine.
**2021 Update: The Tier 2 General Visa is now called a Skilled Worker visa.
Which Recruitment Agency Did You Use to Help with the Process?
Although it can be done alone, all of these steps are much easier with help from a company or recruitment agency. The agency that helped me with my dream was TTM Healthcare. I wish I would have used them from the start because it would have been less headache.***
Originally I went with a agency called Continental Nurse (they called themselves Continental Travelnurse when I was applying) which were great help in the beginning, but I always had this too good to be true type feeling. By the time I passed OSCE, they were terrible with communication, and not upfront with me that at the time they could not sponsor my work visa. They went off the grid for 6 months, and then all of a sudden they were back and offering better packages than when I first started the process. By this time, I was already moved and started my job, so in the end I think I got the better deal.
TTM will help you find a hospital in a location you prefer to work in (mine was closest to London as possible), and they set you up with a Skype interview with the hospital. Depending on the hospital, they will send you an offer letter with a relocation package. Most of my processing costs were taken care of, which is really generous.
The order of the process could have been different for me in that I could have gotten sponsored a job as a healthcare assistant until I passed the final OSCE, and come over sooner. But the way Continental Travelnurse had things set up (at the time), my order was a little different.
What Exciting Things Have You Done Since You Have Moved?
So far, I’m loving my decision, even despite the pay cut. (Nurses in the US are paid pretty well I realize now). Marvin and I enjoy being in this location so close to London. We also have taken a few trips abroad in Europe which was our main goal: to travel! Thus far, we’ve been to Sweden, France, Poland, and Belgium in a matter of 6 months. I can’t exclude all the awesome places right here in England we’ve been to as well such as Stonehenge, Bath, Bristol, or the exotic Cornwall.
Check out some of my posts on nursing differences here.
I hope this will inspire someone to work abroad if this is a dream of yours.
Feel free to comment below, share this post, or get into contact with one of the agencies to start your nursing career abroad! If you have any questions, I’m happy to help the best that I can.