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Nurses are in high demand worldwide and the United Kingdom (UK) is no exception. Since November 27, 2008, however, the UK government halted special arrangements for overseas qualified nurses and midwives to come to the country. If you receive a job offer from a British employer, you can still apply for permission to work in the UK as a sponsored skilled worker.
In addition to meeting immigration stipulations, the UK requires that all nurses who wish to work in the country register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), a government body that regulates nurses and midviwes and safeguards national heath care. The three basic eligibility requirements for registration with the NMC include: English proficiency, at least three years of nursing training in your own country and at least 12 months of nursing practice in your own country.
You can begin the application process from the US or anywhere else. Once approved, the NMC requires you to embark on an Overseas Nursing Programme or Adaptation to Midwifery Programme at a UK university and to partake in a clinical placement.
The NMC has standardized requirements for applicants outside the European Economic Area (EEA). This means that even if you are a registered nurse in the US and your native language is English, NMC requires you to submit an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score. Applicants must score at least seven out of nine overall and at least seven in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking sections of the academic version of the IELTS test. The NMC considers IELTS test results valid for two years, so unless you have taken the test recently, you will have to arrange one before submitting the application.
The NMC's second application requirement 12 months of full-time practice as a registered nurse or midwife in the US (or another country), or the part-time equivalent. If you have been a qualified nurse for longer than 12 months, then you must have practiced for at least 450 hours in the past three years. The NMC will require you to take a longer version of the Overseas Nurses Programme if you have not practiced in the last five years.
To register as an adult (general) nurse in the UK, you must have taken a full-time three-year post-secondary (post high-school) course leading to qualification as a general nurse. As a US registered nurse, you do not necessarily meet the training requirement since course lengths can vary.
Your nursing education must have included theoretical and practical instruction in the following areas: general and specialist medicine, general and specialist surgery, childcare and pediatrics, maternity (obstetric) care, mental health and psychiatry, care of the elderly, community/primary care nursing.
Additional training requirements for specialized nursing fields, such as mental health and pediatrics, are listed on the NMC's website.
Overseas Nurses Programme
If the NMC approves your application, it will then invite you to join the Overseas Nurses Programme—designed to ensure that overseas trained nurses meet requirements comparable to those of UK-trained nurses. The program involves about 20 days of protected learning time and, where appropriate, a period of supervised practice.
As a US registered nurse, your educational and practical experience will likely match UK requirements for entry to the registry; you will have to take the 20 protected learning days to adapt your previous education and experience to working in the British healthcare system, but the NMC will probably not require you to undertake supervised practice.
On successful completion of the Overseas Nurses Programme, the NMC will add you to their register as a nurse, qualifying you to work in either public or private healthcare in the UK.