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Guide to UK Nursing employment for working travellers

Get ahead of the competition by applying for jobs and registering with agencies up to two years before you plan to travel.

Prepare for the experience of a lifetime by reading this page and visiting our essential tips section.

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Learn how to get the jobs you really want – Visit our FAQ's section.


Interested in a job in the British medical or health profession? Apply for Jobs or Register now.

What types of nursing jobs are available?

More than 15,000 qualified nurses travel to Britain every year to work in this challenging yet rewarding field. There is a wide variety of jobs available including:

  • General nurses
  • Specialist nurses
  • School nurses
  • Paediatric nurses
  • Aged care nurses
  • Midwives

Employment in these areas of nursing ranges from full-time, permanent, casual, short-term and contract. Positions are most easily found through Nursing Recruitment Agencies. In high demand are RMN's, RGN's, Nurse Mangers and specialist nursing jobs including A&E (Emergency Department), ITU (ICU), Paediatric, Scrub, Anesthetic and Recovery nursing jobs

Where are the nursing located?

  • National Health Service hospitals
  • London clinics
  • Private hospitals
  • Private companies
  • Private nursing homes
  • GP practices
  • Health screening clinics
  • Care homes
  • Occupational health units
  • Learning disability homes
  • Private home care

The environment you end up working in will of course depend on your qualifications, experience and personal preference.

NHS hospitals are usually larger than private facilities and most of them are teaching hospitals. Nurses may find the working conditions less pressured in private hospitals where the ratio of nurses to patients is significantly higher. Nursing Agencies play a vital role in supplying the NHS hospitals and private hospitals with nurses.

What qualifications do I need?

Before you can practise as a nurse you must register with the profession’s regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (see below). In order to do this your qualifications must meet their education and practice standards. These include:

  • You must currently hold a first-level nursing qualification and have effective registration in your home country (note: second level nurses or equivalent such as vocational nurses or state certified nurses will not be registered);
  • You must have completed a three-year training course in general nursing, half of which must be clinical or practical training in direct contact with patients and a third must be theoretical;
  • You must have at least 12 months post-registration experience.

Specialist nurses and midwives applying for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) also need to meet further education requirements.

What professional registration do I need?

All nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses wishing to practise in Britain must be registered with the regulatory body, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Nurses trained outside of the European Economic Area must have their initial training assessed before they can be admitted to the register. The nurses’ part of the register is divided into four fields:

  • Adult (general) nursing
  • Mental health nursing
  • Learning disabilities nursing
  • Children’s nursing

Unless you are trained and experienced in one of the specialties above it is most likely that you will apply to be registered as an adult nurse.

If your application meets the NMC’s minimum standards you will be required to undertake all or part of their new Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP) before your registration can be completed.

The 20-day ONP covers legal issues affecting nursing, health and safety issues and the NMC Code of Conduct. You will also have to pass an English language test.

The NMC charges £140 to process applications and then once you have been accepted to the register you will be required to pay a registration fee of £162 that is valid for three years. The assessment process can take up to six months, so be sure to apply well in advance of your planned departure for Britain.

For full details on the registration process for nurses outside of Europe and to download application forms go here.

Do I need an English Language Test (IELTS)?

If you are from a non-EU country you will need to take the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. This is a relatively easy step for Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and Canadians since English is likely to be your first language. For members of non-EU countries the IELTS test is mandatory for certain professionals including nurses and doctors. To find out where to take your exam in your home country and get further information visit the British Council website.

Do I need insurance?

Professional indemnity insurance is not compulsory for nurses but is thoroughly recommended. You can join the Royal College of Nurses which provides up to £3 million cover for any claim made against you by a patient, colleague or member of the public, or if you are injured at work. Once you are registered with the NMC they should be able to provide you with advice on insurance options.

Do I need a visa or work permit?

Yes you most certainly do! Registering with the NMC allows you to practise in Britain, but you still must have a valid permit or work visa status when you enter.

On a working holiday visa you will be able to undertake ad hoc shifts and rota work.

With a work permit you will need to be sponsored by a hospital, private clinic or company. In that instance you are normally required to commit to at least a year with that employer due to the expenses and paper work involved in sponsoring overseas candidates.

Nurses are on the list of industries experiencing a shortage of qualified personnel and therefore sponsorship by a employer is a possibility.

Ancestry Visas, EU passports and Right to Abode certificates will allow you to work in either contract or permanent positions with no work restrictions.

Please click here for more Visa Info and links to official sites.

How much can I earn? How are nurses graded ? – Salary of a Registered Nurse

The salary of a registered nurse is structured in a similar way to most other countries.

Nurses are graded in seniority from grade A to grade I, with registered nurses beginning at grade D. Newly registered nurses can expect to start on a salary of around £17,000 which can increase to up to £30,000 at the most senior level I.

The new NHS Agenda for Change pay system is divided into nine pay bands, with several pay increments within each band. Entry level nurses currently begin in band five with the most senior nursing positions falling in band eight. Levels of pay increase as you gain experience and progress through the increments in each band.

Private hospitals usually pay higher rates than NHS facilities, but in both environments you can expect a living allowance if you are situated in London (due to the higher cost of living in the capital) that can be up to £4,000 p.a. in addition to your salary as a registered nurse.

The new Agenda for Change system of pay is currently only being implemented in NHS facilities but is expected to influence rates of pay outside the national system in the future.

How do I go about finding a job?

You can register with WORKgateways up to two years before you leave to assist you in finding a nursing position that suits you. Read these pages to find out what kind of position you’d like and begin our Job Search now!

Checklist: before working as a Nurse

Before you jump on a plane and jet over, make sure you:

  • Have an appropriate visa or work permit;
  • Have relevant qualifications that match the NMC criteria;
  • Have registered with the NMC and had your education and training assessed;
  • Have at least 12 months professional experience;
  • Are registered as a nurse in your home country;
  • Have an up-to-date professional CV, including reference and evidence of qualifications and professional experience;
  • Register with Nursing agencies who can assist you in securing a job;
  • Are ready for a challenging, exciting and rewarding career!

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