So you want to work as a nurse, midwife or nursing associate in the UK? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, from eligibility and registration requirements to finding jobs and settling in the UK.
Overview of Nursing and Midwifery in the UK
The UK has long faced nursing shortages and relies on overseas recruitment to fill gaps. With an aging population and rising demand for healthcare services, skilled international nurses and midwives are still very much in demand.
Once largely from EU countries, Brexit has shifted demand towards non-EU nurses. The good news is the UK makes it relatively straightforward for eligible overseas nurses to relocate and practise here.There are around 700,000 nurses registered in the UK. Nurses make up the largest healthcare profession, working across diverse settings like hospitals, community health, care homes and patient’s homes.Midwives play a vital role providing care during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatally. There are around 37,000 registered midwives in the UK. The NHS has faced midwife shortages, creating opportunities for overseas recruitment.
Key Steps to Become a Nurse, Midwife or Nursing Associate in the UK
Here is an overview of the main steps required:
1. Check Your EligibilityYou must meet requirements related to your qualifications, English language skills and immigration status.
2. Apply to Register with the NMCThe Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) regulates nurses and midwives in the UK. You must register with them to practise.
3. Prepare For and Pass Your NMC ExamsYou will need to pass exams testing your nursing/midwifery knowledge and clinical skills.
4. Apply for a Working Visa (Non-EU/EEA)If you are not an EU/EEA citizen, you will need to apply for a suitable UK work visa.
5. Begin Your Nursing/Midwifery Career in the UK!With registration completed, you can start applying for nursing and midwifery jobs across the UK. Next, let’s look at each step in more detail.
Step 1: Check You Meet the Eligibility Criteria
You must meet requirements in three key areas:
1. Professional Qualifications
To register as a nurse or midwife in the UK, you must have completed:
- A 3-year diploma or bachelor’s degree in nursing, or a midwifery qualification recognized by the NMC.
- Have gained at least half your professional practice experience in the country you qualified in.
- Have practiced for at least 12 months after qualifying (or 18 months if you qualified before 2016).
For nursing associates, you must have:
- Completed a UK NMC approved foundation degree/diploma in nursing associate studies.
- Gained supervised practice experience meeting NMC standards.
2. English Language
You must prove English language proficiency by passing one of the following exams with the minimum scores:
- IELTS academic exam – overall score of 7 and a minimum of 6.5 in writing.
- OET – Grade B or above.
- PTE Academic – overall score of 65 and a minimum of 65 in writing.
3. Immigration Status Requirements
To work in the UK long term you must have:
- UK, EU or EEA citizenship.
- Indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
- A suitable work visa like the Skilled Worker or Health and Care Worker visa.
Be sure to check the specific visa options and requirements for your circumstances. More on this later.Meeting all these eligibility criteria is essential for registration with the NMC.
Step 2: Apply to Register with the NMC
The NMC is the official regulatory body for all nurses and midwives practising in the UK. They maintain the official register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates.To legally work in any nursing or midwifery role, you must register with the NMC. This involves:
1. Create an online NMC accountYou start your NMC application by creating an online account. This allows you to access and complete all the required application forms.
2. Verify your identityYou will need to verify your identity by uploading scans of documents like your passport, driver’s license or national ID card.
3. Pay the application feeThis is currently £153 for nurses and midwives to join the register.
4. Submit supporting documentsYou must submit documents supporting your eligibility like:
- Proof of your nursing/midwifery qualification and academic transcripts
- Certificate showing you passed the language exam requirements
- Evidence you have practiced for 12-18 months after qualifying
- Proof of good health and good character
5. Go through ID checksThe NMC uses a third-party provider to check your documents and verify your identity.Once your application is successfully processed and approved, your name will be added to the NMC register. This means you have officially met all NMC registration standards.
Step 3: Prepare For and Pass Your NMC Exams
The next step is passing exams mandated by the NMC to ensure you meet expected knowledge and skills standards.There are two main assessments:
1. NMC Test of Competence (Part 1)This computer-based test assesses your nursing or midwifery knowledge and clinical judgement. It covers areas like:
- Fundamentals of Practice
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Nursing/Midwifery Practice and Decision Making
You have a maximum of 3 attempts. The cost is £83 per attempt.
2. NMC Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) (Part 2)The OSCE tests your clinical and practical nursing/midwifery skills through simulations with actors playing patients. Areas assessed include:
- Infection prevention and control
- Medicines management
- Patient assessment and care planning
You have a maximum of 3 attempts costing £794 each.Booking and taking these NMC exams is mandatory after completing your registration application. Allow plenty of preparation time and seek guidance from the NMC website.Some nurses may be eligible for an adaptation period to transition into the UK system without needing to sit the exams immediately.Once you pass both parts, you will be issued full NMC registration allowing you to start practising as a nurse, midwife or nursing associate.
Step 4: Apply for a Suitable UK Work Visa
If you are not a UK or EU/EEA citizen, the next vital step is securing the right visa to live and work here legally long-term.The main visa options are:
Skilled Worker VisaThis is the main visa for skilled professionals taking up sponsored roles with licensed UK employers. Key requirements are:
- Job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor.
- Job meets skill level and salary thresholds.
- Have 70 points across criteria like qualifications, language skills and salary levels.
Health and Care Worker VisaThis newer visa aims to make it simpler for healthcare professionals to work in the UK. You need:
- A job offer from an approved healthcare employer.
- Be working in an eligible healthcare profession/role.
- Meet English language and financial maintenance requirements.
Other Visa OptionsDepending on your circumstances, other potential options include the Global Talent Visa or the Youth Mobility Scheme.
Be sure to carefully review all the specific eligibility criteria for suitable work visas and plan your application well in advance of travelling to the UK.
The good news is the UK welcomes overseas nurses and midwives, so there are excellent visa options available. Seeking professional immigration advice can also be very helpful.
Step 5: Begin Your Nursing or Midwifery Career in the UK!
With your NMC registration completed and suitable visa secured, you are ready to launch your nursing or midwifery career in the UK!The final step is finding and securing a job.There are roles across diverse settings like:
- NHS hospitals
- Private hospitals/clinics
- Aged care/nursing homes
- Community health
- General practitioner clinics
- Patient’s homes (district nursing)
Midwives commonly work in:
- NHS maternity units and birth centres
- Community-based midwifery
Top Tips for Getting Hired
- Target locations/employers with staff shortages.
- Highlight your unique skills and experience.
- Prepare well for competency-based interviews.
- Be willing to work flexibly including nights/weekends.
- Consider temporary agency roles to build UK experience.
With perseverance and the right approach, overseas nurses and midwives are in high demand across Britain.
Settling in the UK
Once you secure a nursing or midwifery job in the UK, you can shift focus to settling into your new life here. Useful tips include:
Finding suitable housing which fits your budget and lifestyle is essential. Be prepared for high rental costs in places like London or other major cities.
Open a UK Bank Account
You’ll need a local bank account to receive your salary payments and for daily spending/bill payments. Comparison shop to find the best account for your needs.
Understand the Tax System
As a UK employee you’ll need to pay income tax and national insurance contributions. Learn how the tax system works and ensure proper payroll deductions.
Get Your National Insurance Number
This unique number gives you access to state benefits, pensions and employment rights. Overseas nationals can apply after arriving in the UK.
Access Healthcare Services
As a healthcare worker, make sure you know how to access local healthcare yourself like enrolling with a GP surgery.
Build Social and Professional Connections
Making new friends and networking with other nurses helps you adjust personally and professionally. Joining nursing groups and events can help build connections.While it takes effort to adjust to UK life and culture, the long-term career opportunities make it well worth it for many overseas nurses and midwives.
Next Steps as an International Nurse or Midwife
We hope this guide has armed you with a clear overview of the entire process to become a registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate in the UK.Here are some final tips as you progress on your journey:
- Carefully assess your eligibility before committing time and resources.
- Be prepared for paperwork, exams and visa bureaucracy. Seek help when needed.
- Secure UK job offers before finalizing visa applications.
- Join online communities to connect with fellow international nurses.
- Be flexible and patient in building your career as a newcomer to the UK system.
Wishing you all the very best as you consider bringing your nursing or midwifery skills to Britain. The NHS and private employers certainly need you.
- Step by Step Process of Becoming A United Kingdom Registered Nurse (UKRN): This article guides you through the steps of registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) UK, including the requirements, the checklist, the test of competencies, and the registration fee.
- Free UK NMC CBT for overseas nurses: This article provides a free online practice portal for the NMC Test of Competence Part 1 exam, which is a computer-based test (CBT) consisting of 120 multiple choice questions for 4 hours.
- Requirements for International Nurses who want to register as a United Kingdom Registered Nurse (UKRN) with UK NMC: This article outlines the requirements for overseas nurses who want to work as a nurse in the UK, such as the English proficiency test, the tuberculosis test, the police clearance, and other supporting documents.
- How to Apply for a UK Visa as an Overseas Nurse: This article explains the process of applying for a UK visa as an overseas nurse, including the types of visas, the eligibility criteria, the application fee, the documents needed, and the processing time.
- How to Prepare for the NMC OSCE Exam: This article gives some tips and advice on how to prepare for the NMC Test of Competence Part 2 exam, which is an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) that tests your clinical skills and knowledge in a simulated environment.