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Work as a nurse in the UK
  Registration process
  Finding a job
  Developing country list
  Avoiding problems
  Nursing training courses
  Further information


This page provides some information to help overseas nurses who come to work in the UK.

The Home Office has announced that general nursing is being taken off the Home Office's list of shortage occupations from 14 August 2006 (some senior and specialised jobs will remain). This will make it more difficult in future for foreign nurses to obtain or extend UK work permits.

Careers and Jobs in Nursing
(includes information for overseas nurses)
Author: Linda Nazarko
Publisher: Kogan Page
Date: September 2004

Nursing & Midwifery Uncovered
Publisher: Trotman
Date: June 2004

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For most nursing jobs, you will need to be a registered nurse in the UK before you can work without supervision. A new registration process for overseas-trained nurses (from outside the EEA) was introduced in September 2005. The following is a summary of the stages in the new process:

(1) NMC information pack

* The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is responsible for the regulation of nursing, midwifery and health visiting in the UK.
* Its website is
* You should contact the NMC to ask for an information pack and application forms.
* Start preparing the application forms. You will need to request some documents from the nursing regulator in your own country.

(2) English language exam

* You need good English communication skills to work as a nurse in the UK. You will need to gain an overall score (the average of the scores in the reading, writing, speaking and listening papers) of at least 7.0 in the academic module of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. You need at least 7.0 in the listening and reading sections and at least 7.0 in the writing and speaking sections. For more details about this test see the English/Exams/IELTS section of this website.
* To find out how to take this exam, contact the British Council in your country (for the website, choose your country in the Links section).
* Note that from September 2005 you will need to take the exam even if your first language is English. This includes applicants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries.
* You need to pass the exam before continuing with your application.

(3) NMC application

* After you have passed the IELTS exam (if necessary), you should send the completed application forms back to the NMC.

(4) NMC decision letter

* The NMC will check evidence of your experience, competence and English ability, and then issue a decision letter. The decision-making process usually takes 2 weeks, but may last longer if more information is required. If you meet the NMC's requirements, nurses will be asked to complete the Overseas Nurses Programme (possibly including a period of supervised practice) before being able to be registered. The decision letter will only be valid for a limited time: you need to complete your registration before the date you are given, or else apply for another decision letter.

(5) Overseas Nurses Programme

The Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP) has been introduced for nurses who received a decision letter from the NMC dated 1 September 2005 or later.
You must complete a 20-day protected learning course at an approved higher educational institution (HEI) in the UK. The list of approved institutions is published on the NMC website.
This course will teach you about the UK healthcare system. You will need to obtain an appropriate visa before coming to the UK.
The higher educational institution will assess your performance for the protected learning and supervised practice and submit this to the NMC.
If you fail the programme, you may be allowed to make one more attempt. If you pass the programme, you will be able to register.
For further information about the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP), see:

(6) Registration

* Complete the NMC registration forms and pay the registration fee

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Once you have become a registered nurse in the UK you can apply for work as a nurse (if you are from outside the EU the employer will need to apply for a work permit for you). The higher educational institution at which you did the Overseas Nurses Programme should be able to help to suggest suitable places where you can apply.

The following links may be helpful for finding healthcare employers in the UK:

- NHS Trusts / hospitals (note: you may also wish to try contacting private hospitals in the independent health care sector):
Northern Ireland:

- The NHS National Workforce Development Group (England only):

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Note that the NHS is not allowed to recruit directly from countries which are on a developing country list. The reason for this is to avoid harming the medical system in a country where there may be a shortage of qualified nurses, doctors or other healthcare workers. The list is available here:

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Do not pay a fee to an agent who says that they can get you an NHS job.

While you are in the UK you may wish to join a union, who may be able to help you if you have problems at work.
The main nursing unions in the UK are the RCN (Royal College of Nursing):, the RCM (Royal College of Midwives):, and UNISON:

If you are offered a job, you should check the contract carefully. This is especially true if you work for a private nursing home or private hospital. Make sure that the contract clearly states what your maximum working hours will be and which shifts you will be expected to work.

If you suffer abuse, bullying or threats, you should report it immediately to your agent, hospital or union.
Make sure that you understand what you need to do if you feel that you need to change employer for some reason.
Your employer does not have the right to keep your passport, nursing registration card or other personal documents.

Before accepting a placement, make sure that you will be adequately supervised, that you have sufficient opportunities for education / training, and that you are given regular free occupational health checks. Find out if you need to attend a course before starting work, and whether you are charged for this.

There is an International Nurses Advice Line on 08458 505888, open from 9am to 6pm. It will be useful for anyone who would like to know who to
contact for advice about finding a job in the NHS, how to enter a supervised practice programme or what action to take if you have been misled by an employer or recruitment agency.

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Where can I find out about nursing-related training in the UK?

If you want to attend a full-time nursing training course in the UK, you should contact your country's nurse registration authority to make sure that the UK qualification will be recognised by them. You may need to take further exams after you have returned to your country before you can practise as a nurse there.

To find out about full-time pre-registration courses in nursing:
- England: NMAS (Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service):
- Wales: Welsh National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting
- Scotland: NBS (National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for Scotland) website contains information about CATCH (Centralised Applications to Nurse Training Clearing House):
- Northern Ireland: NBNI (National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for Northern Ireland):

To find out about degree courses in nursing at UK universities, see the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) website:

You can also find about nursing courses from the websites: or

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A general nurse may work, for example, in a general ward of a hospital. RGN is an abbreviation used for a registered general nurse.
A midwife is someone who has been trained to help women when they give birth to children.
A mental health nurse may work in a mental hospital or the psychiatric ward of a general hospital.
A learning disability nurse looks after people who have learning difficulties due to low mental ability.
A children's nurse (also known as a paediatric nurse, sometimes spelt pediatric nurse) may work in a children's hospital or in the children's ward (also known as the paediatrics ward) of a general hospital. A nursery nurse is trained to take care of young children (see also: Work/Job/AuPair).

A registered nurse is a nurse who has been issued with a registration number (a PIN card) by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council). A nurse who is not registered (a student nurse or training nurse) must work under a supervisor.
A staff nurse is a registered nurse who works in a hospital ward. A sister (a woman) or a charge nurse (a man) is the nurse in charge of a department in a hospital.
A health visitor gives advice to people about healthcare (especially old people and the parents of very young children), often by visiting their homes.
An auxiliary nurse or a health care assistant helps a nurse to take care of people.

Primary health care means caring for people in the community rather than in a hospital. Examples include a school heath nurse, who treats children at school, an occupational health nurse, who works in a company, and a district nurse, who treats people in a local area, often by visiting their homes. An outpatient is a term for someone who is receiving care outside of hospital. NHS Direct is a telephone service staffed by nurses, providing healthcare advice 24 hours a day.

An old people's home is a place where elderly people can live together and receive care, when they are unable to look after themselves. A residential and nursing home is a private hospital where ill and old people can stay and be cared for. A hospice is a place where care is given to patients who are dying.

For further basic vocabulary, see the Personal/Health section of this website.

Dictionaries of British nursing vocabulary include the following:

Bailliere's Nurses' Dictionary
Editor: Barbara F. Weller
Publisher: Bailliere Tindall
Date: April 2005
A Dictionary of Nursing
Editor: Elizabeth Martin
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: April 2004
Churchill Livingstone's Dictionary of Nursing
Editor: Christine Brooker
Publisher: Churchill Livingstone
Date: May 2006

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Nursing in the UK (site for overseas nurses in the UK):
Nursing Times (a UK nursing magazine):
Nursing Standard (a UK nursing magazine): (also publish the RCN Bulletin)
Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities:
The Mental Health Foundation:
Job vacancies in the UK for qualified nurses: or

UK regulator for nurses: Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC):

Note that this page refers only to nurses. For other healthcare professions, contact the relevant UK regulator:
Doctors: General Medical Council:
Dentists: General Dental Council:
Pharmacists: Royal Pharmaceutical Society:
Opticians: General Optical Council:
Osteopaths: General Osteopathic Council:
Chiropractors: General Chiropractic Council:
Arts Therapists, Biomedical Scientists, Chiropodists/Podiatrists, Clinical Scientists, Dietitians, Occupational Therapists, Orthoptists, Prosthetists & Orthotists, Paramedics, Physiotherapists, Radiographers, Speech & Language Therapists: Health Professions Council:

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Health: Personal/Health
Writing a CV: Work/CV
IELTS exam: English/Exams/IELTS

Home page: Home

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