How to Work as a Nurse in the UK

Nursing ranks among the highly sought-after professions in the UK, largely driven by the growing need for healthcare personnel in the country. Consequently, numerous opportunities await individuals aspiring to embark on a nursing career while considering a journey to the UK. If you aspire to practice nursing in the UK, the process may appear daunting, particularly if you lack work experience. However, there’s no need for discouragement, as this article will outline the steps to work as a nurse in the UK and provide valuable insights.

Benefits of Working as a Nurse in the UK

1. Job Security and High Demand

Nursing is a highly sought-after profession in the UK, primarily due to the ever-growing healthcare needs within the country. The National Health Service (NHS) continually requires more nurses to meet the healthcare demands, ensuring job security for qualified professionals. The high demand for nurses in the UK means that once you meet the necessary qualifications, finding employment won’t be a struggle.

2. Attractive Income

 As a nurse in the UK, you can expect a stable income that can comfortably cover your financial needs. Your earnings will depend on factors such as your qualifications, skills, and specific job role. On average, registered nurses in the UK earn around £25,000, a good income that can provide a comfortable lifestyle depending on your spending habits.

3. Career Flexibility

  Nursing offers dynamic opportunities for specialization and career growth. Nurses can choose to specialize in various fields, including theatre nursing, midwifery, psychiatric nursing, and more, as long as they hold the requisite qualifications. Additionally, nurses have the flexibility to select their work schedules, which can include standard 9-5 shifts, night shifts, or rotational shifts to accommodate various preferences.

4. Continuous Growth and Development

The NHS actively supports nurses in their professional growth and development. Nurses can plan and pursue their career goals and benefit from personal development reviews. Access to a wide range of courses and opportunities for gaining experience allows nurses to enhance their skills and knowledge, leading to a positive impact on their careers.

5. Diverse Patient Populations

 Working as a nurse in the UK provides exposure to diverse patient populations from various backgrounds and cultures. This diversity offers valuable experience and allows nurses to develop cultural competence and enhance their ability to provide patient-centred care.

Guide to Applying for a Nursing Position in the UK

1. Start by Completing the NMC Eligibility Assessment

Before working as a nurse in the UK, create an account on the NMC website. Review the registration guidelines provided on the website. Depending on your specialization, register as an “Adult Nurse” or select Children, Mental Health, or Learning Disabilities. Also, before you begin your application, it’s essential to reach out to your referees and verifiers to ensure that their contact information is accurate and obtain their consent to share their details with the NMC. Additionally, make sure you provide your educational institution’s name, address, and email address so that the NMC can contact them for verification.

If you are from Nigeria, verify your nursing qualifications with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). Submit photocopies of registration certificates, current license, birth certificate or declaration of age, and payment receipt of N17,500 through REMITA. Write a letter requesting good standing from NMCN, including your CRM number.

2. Begin the Recognized Examination

While you work through the eligibility requirements, it’s a good idea to start preparing for the mandatory English test. You must attain the minimum required score in either the IELTS or OET to demonstrate your English language proficiency. The NMC accepts two specific language tests:

  • International English Language Test System (IELTS)

You must take the Academic Module for NMC registration, also known as IELTS UKVI. The NMC accepts both the paper-based and computer-based IELTS Academic tests administered at test centres.

  • Occupational English Test (OET)

The NMC now recognizes the OET as proof of English language competency. This test maintains the same standards as test centre venues but allows candidates to take the OET on their home computer, eliminating the need to travel. The computer-based OET is also available at test centres, replacing the previous paper-based version. OET covers the same categories as IELTS but assesses your communication skills using real healthcare scenarios. The highest score in each category is an A.

The NMC has introduced new guidelines for combining test scores. You can resit the tests and combine scores within a 12-month timeframe. Additionally, you can combine scores from both tests if you score slightly below the required threshold in specific areas.

For IELTS, the new minimum score required to combine tests is 6 for Writing and 6.5 for other areas. In both sittings, all scores must not fall below 6.5. You still need to achieve a minimum score of 6.5 in writing and 7 in other sections. For OET, the new minimum score for combining tests is a C (250 to 290) for Writing and a C+ (300-340) for other sections. However, please note that the required scores for each section remain unchanged. In both sittings, all scores must not fall below C+. You still need to achieve a minimum score of C+ in writing and B in other sections.

3. Take the CBT

After the NMC verifies your eligibility, you can proceed to complete both the Test of Competence and the Registration application. The new process allows you to undertake the Test of Competence while simultaneously fulfilling the registration requirements. It’s no longer a linear process where you must complete one step before moving on to the next. This change offers flexibility for applicants and their sponsors to tailor the process to their specific circumstances. The Test of Competence assesses applicants’ knowledge, understanding, and application of professional nursing skills. It comprises two components: the Computer-Based Test (CBT) and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

You have the freedom to take either of these tests in any order, but you must pass both to become fully qualified. Upon passing one of the two tests, you have a two-year window to pass the second one to maintain its validity. Once you pass both tests, they remain valid for five years. The specific tests you need to take depend on the part of the register you wish to join, such as Adult nurse (RNA), Mental health nurse (RNMH), Learning disabilities nurse (RNLD), or Children’s nurse (RNC).

Typically, candidates start by taking the Computer-Based Test (CBT). Upon verifying your eligibility for registration, the NMC will issue an Authorization to Test. Employers who hire nurses usually require both the CBT and the English exam to process your application and secure a UK working visa. The OSCE takes place after you arrive in the UK, and employers often provide substantial support to help you prepare for the examination.

4. Complete Your Registration Application

As mentioned previously, you can begin submitting the necessary supporting evidence for your registration while working on your Test of Competence. You have a two-year window from passing either the CBT or OSCE (whichever comes first) to finalize your registration application. It’s crucial to pass all exams and meet the required criteria within this specified timeframe.

This is the time to prepare the following:

  • Health Evidence

You must make a self-declaration regarding your health condition. Any condition that might impact your practice must be declared. If you have a condition that is effectively managed, there is no need to inform the NMC. However, if you have a condition or disability that is not managed, you must provide additional information for the NMC to assess your fitness to practice. This assessment should have been conducted within the last six months. You must also provide details of a qualified medical practitioner whom the NMC will contact to verify your health condition.

  • Character Evidence

You must make a self-declaration about your character, including any police charges, cautions, convictions, and conditional discharges you’ve received, as well as determinations from regulatory bodies in the UK or overseas. If you declare any offences, the NMC will request more information about the incidents to assess whether you are fit to practice safely in the UK.

Depending on your circumstances, you will need to upload either a police clearance or a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate:

Police Clearance

If you lived overseas for a total of 12 months or more (not necessarily consecutive) within the last ten years, a police clearance is required. It must have been issued no more than 12 months before uploading. You can also get additional information on this on the Gov.UK website.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

If you lived in the UK for 3 months or more, you will need to provide a DBS certificate. Additionally, you will need to provide contact details for a nominated person who will offer a supporting declaration regarding your capability to practice safely and effectively. This nominated person should not be related to you or have been previously employed by you. The type of referee you can nominate depends on your registration status.

  • Verification of English Proficiency

Ensure your English proficiency is verified by the required tests. As highlighted above, this can be accomplished through any of the following methods:

  • IELTS: Provide your TRF number and original certificate.
  • OET: Supply your candidate number and original certificate. Ensure your MyOET account is updated for NMC verification.
  • Transcript of Records: This evidence is acceptable only if your training record shows 50% clinical interaction, with 75% of that interaction involving patients, relatives, or healthcare professionals in English.
  •  Registered Practice in a Majority English-speaking Country: This is suitable for those who practised in such countries for a year. You must furnish your registration details, certificate, details on how your English proficiency was assessed by that regulator, and your employer information.
  •  Confirmation of Indemnity Arrangement

Every UK registered nurse is legally required to have indemnity cover to protect against claims while in practice. Many employers, including the NHS and some private sectors, offer indemnity cover. Ensure it is in place, or you can arrange this with unions such as RCN and UNISON.

5. Payment of Registration Fee

You must pay the registration fee which is £153

6. Job Search and Application

You can begin searching and applying for jobs at the outset or make it Step 1, but completing Steps 1-5 first often leads to easier job searches and offers.

  • Where to Find Nursing Vacancies:

POEA Accredited Recruitment Agencies: Many UK employers, especially the NHS, use recruitment agencies to find suitable nurses and assist with document processing.

– NHS Jobs or Direct Employers: Some employers hire directly. If you plan to apply directly, ensure the employer has the necessary license to sponsor.

7. Take the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

After completing IELTS, CBT, and initial requirements, employers will grant you a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) required for a Tier 2 Working Visa to move to the UK and take the OSCE. You have three months from your employment start date, as indicated in your COS, to sit the OSCE exam. Currently, there are five approved OSCE Test Centres.

At this juncture, you are officially employed as a pre-registered nurse. During the face-to-face identity check on the test day, make sure to present your valid passport. The exam fee amounts to £794, and the resit fee stands at £397.

8.  NMC Assessment

Once you’ve successfully passed the Test of Competence and completed the Registration Application, the NMC will contact your referees to authenticate your information. In case the NMC requires additional information regarding your supporting documents, they will reach out to you via email.

At this stage, your role is simply to await the registration outcome decision from the NMC.

9. Registration

Congratulations! You’ve now attained the status of a certified UK Registered Nurse. Following the receipt of your registration confirmation from the NMC, you will be automatically added to the register, allowing you to practice as a Band 5 nurse at the hospital or institution that has employed you.


The journey to becoming a qualified UK Registered Nurse involves a series of well-defined steps and meticulous preparations. From establishing your English proficiency to passing the Test of Competence, and finally receiving your registration from the NMC, it’s a rewarding path for those dedicated to the healthcare profession. Following the guidelines in this article would make your journey easier and smoother.

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