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  • Kirsten Conrad

How to become a travel nurse in the UK from the USA

I wanted to write about the licensing process as an American nurse coming to England. While living and working in England the past 4 months has been great, it took a while to get here. I’ve gotten lots of questions on what the process looked like, and I searched the internet high and low while I was going through the licensing process for any advice I could find, so hopefully someone finds this helpful!

It took me 7 months to complete the process of becoming a nurse in the UK

I used the agency 'Continental TravelNurse' throughout my process. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about them, but overall I found them very helpful in getting me to the U.K. I had an excellent recruiter through Continental who was very willing to call me and walk me through each step and any questions I had. The only negative thing I did find about them was I had to stay on top of them to get things moving and as soon as I was over to the U.K. there really wasn’t any follow up from them. My advise to anyone using them would be to stay on top of your application timeline, try and get everything done as soon as possible and correctly (if incorrect, England will send things back and they take their time), and follow up with your recruiter, if you are using one, frequently because they are the middleman between you and the U.K.


There are a few steps you need to take to get to the U.K. They say on average it will take between 6-8 months. I started the process in October 2018 and arrived May 2019, so the entire process for me was 7 months. For some it happens as early as 4 months and for others it will take longer. The best thing to do is find out what it required and start getting organized NOW.


Apply to the NMC (£140 to apply) - This is an easy step. Take advantage, because the next three steps are tedious! Go to the NMC website, or the Nursing and Midwifery Council site for overseas nurses. Create an account and start an application. They will require you have been a nurse for at least one year at your time of application, and that you currently are licensed to practice nursing. After you fill out the initial application, you should have a short waiting period before the NMC acknowledges your application. Once they approve the application, they will give you the go ahead to take your CBT.


Take your Combuter-Based Test/CBT Exam (£90 for the exam) - the CBT Exam is an online theory exam. My advice for this is definitely prepare for it, but don’t stress too much! It’s not the NCLEX (nurse licensing exam for you non-nurses), so take a breath. This is an online test that should be available to take in every state. You will book your exam online through your NMC portal, which will show you testing centers and dates/times you can book your exam. This is an online test, and while it isn’t as difficult as he NCLEX, what makes this exam tricky is that there are 120 questions in total and some of these are considered critical questions. You can get every other question on this exam correct, but you have to correctly answer 90% of the critical questions to pass the exam. These questions tend to be NMC specific policies and rules, medication calculations, and safeguarding. The best way to prepare for these critical questions is to utilize the resources that the NMC website gives you! I will include a link to the guides the NMC provides for the CBT at the end - familiarize yourself with them. The NMC loves their code of conduct and their policies and will expect you to know them if you plan on nursing in the U.K.


The other resource I used is the Royal Marsden Manuel or Clinical Nursing Procedures. The U.K. uses these standards of practice for nursing, and I found this to be an excellent resource for studying. I read through each chapter before I took my exam. Some things I skimmed through and I do think that I was over prepared for the exam, but I would suggest reading through the book and being over prepared rather than under prepared. Allow yourself time to study. Get familiar with the NMC resources, the Royal Marsden Manuel, and some basic medication calculations, and you will do fine.


Submit your Application Information - Okay, buckle up because this is the longest part of the application process. A lot goes into this part and it’s time consuming, so prepare beforehand as much as you can. There are several things you need to send to the NMC for approval:


Proof of Identification - for this you will need a copy of your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate/divorce certificate/name change certificate if applicable. All will need to be scanned and uploaded to your NMC application portal.


English Language Skills - If you are trained in America this won’t apply to you. You just need to tick the box that you were trained in English and have practiced in an English speaking country for a year or longer.


There's plenty of exploring to do on days off!

Professional Education - this will include your total number of years in school (yes, elementary, middle, and high school included), a copy of your nursing diploma, any other qualifications you may have and certificates received, and the forms to accompany training that need to be sent to your university for completion. This includes:

1. A letter with the breakdown of your courses into clinical and theory hours.

2. The form to accompany the transcripts. Which will also be completed in hours.

3. Official transcripts in credits. This step took the longest for me because my school was very resistant to do it and took them a long time and a lot of long-winded emails to get them to comply. Definitely start this as soon as you can.


Post Qualification Registration - This section includes uploading all registration certificates you have from any state/country you have worked in as a nurse. You will also need to have an FBI background check done and uploaded. If you have lived in countries other than America from the age of 18 onwards, you will also need to upload police checks from each additional country you have lived in. You will also need to contact your state’s Nursing Board and have them complete the NMC verification form and submit to them.


Good Character and Good Health - You will need to download the Good Health form from you NMC application portal and take it to you GP. They will need to sign, stamp, and date the form after filling it out. 


OSCE Exam (£794 - OUCH I know. My U.K. hospital paid for this for me so you may luck out like I did!) - The OSCE exam is exam you will take in the U.K. This exam is broken down into six sections: an assessment station, a medication implementation station, two skills stations, and two written stations. This exam is tailored to general/adult nursing which was a bit frustrating for me as I am a Neonatal nurse. However, the skills you may be given are: an IM injection, a SubQ injection, wound dressing using aseptic non-touch technique, use of a peak flow meter, use of an inhaler, collection of a urine specimen from a catheter, and catheter removal. My hospital provided me with OSCE prep classes and scheduled the exam 8 weeks after my arrival, which was really nice. I was fortunate that I passed mine first time, but many people don’t. I’m not saying this to scare you off, just to warn you to take it seriously and don’t blow this exam off. If your hospital doesn’t have prep classes, I would suggest you either enroll in one through your travel agency if allowed or find one available in England, or study the procedures done in the Royal Marsden Manuel. England is very particular about how their skills are carried out, and they will mark you critically during the exam. 


Application Fee ( about £150) - That’s it! Once you’ve passed your OSCE you pay your application fee and you should receive your U.K. nursing pin shortly after! Take your nursing pin and enjoy nursing in England one day and hopping on the London Eye on the next!


Cheers Y'all!


Kirsten x


Click here for the guides the NMC provides for the CBT

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