- 20 February 2020
- 12 min read
How to work in the UK as a nurse if you're from New Zealand
Everything you need to know if you live in New Zealand and you want to move to the UK to work as a nurse.
Topics covered in this article
Is the UK looking for more New Zealand nurses?
There is a shortage of over 40,000 Nurses in the NHS.
New Zealand and Australian nurses are some of the most qualified, competent nurses in the world.
The UK mainly sources nurses from Asian countries like the Philippines.
I think there should be a recruitment drive for New Zealand and Australian nurses.
Overseas nurses are desperately needed in the UK, but the hoops that they are expected to jump through puts most off.
Without qualified healthcare professionals from foreign countries, the NHS would simply not be able to function.
I know many competent, qualified, and experienced nurses who would love to work in the UK, but it’s simply too difficult.
Let's get started!
What does a New Zealander need before they can consider registering as a foreign nurse to work in the UK?
As long as you have a nursing degree, and are a qualified nurse, you do not need any other experience to work as a nurse in the UK.
There are two roads you need to go down:
1. Applying to work in the UK
2. Applying to the NMC as an overseas nurse
I'll cover both of these in this article.
I recommend applying for both at the same time.
You can apply to be an Adult Nurse in the UK straight after your degree; no post-graduation work experience is required anymore.
The NMC is the Nursing and Midwifery Council. They are the nursing regulator for the UK and you need to be registered with them to practice as a nurse.
The NMC now have an online system for overseas applicants who are trained outside of the EU / EEA (that's you Kiwi or Ozzie nurse!).
If you love reading, here's a PDF about it.
Right, that's the basics.
Now you just need to start jumping through some hoops!
The 10 steps you need to take to register as foreign nurse in the UK
The process of registering as a Nurse in the UK can feel intimidating and uninviting to foreign nurses.
Thankfully, the NMC has made some big changes to the registration process in the UK, but there is still a long way to go.
If you are wondering what the process of registering as a foreign nurse is, I’ve summed it up below.
1. Apply with the NMC and complete the eligibility test
2. Organise & send off certified documents
3. Wait 3-4 months for acceptance of documents (if they aren’t accepted, you will have to resubmit them and wait for acceptance)
4. Book & study for the computer based test (CBT)
5. Sit the CBT
6. Pass the CBT
7. Apply for the OSCE
8. Study for 2-4 months for the OSCE (many nurses pay an extra £500 for a course that helps them pass)
10. Receive your NMC pin
Organising and sending off certified documents
You will need to send these off after you pass the CBT.
So, start gathering them now.
You will need:
• Certified copies of your passport, birth certificate, & degree certificate
Book your CBT (Computer Based Test)
Once you have registered with the NMC (remember those links above that I gave you 🧐 ) a second email will be sent for the NMC examination website, Pearson Vue.
Here's some information about the CBT test Pearson run on behalf of the NMC.
The CBT costs £90 (approx. $180 NZD).
You are able to sit the CBT in New Zealand so DO NOT wait until you arrive in the UK to sit this exam!
You will waste a lot of time studying when you could be onto the next step of your application!
This is my BIG TIP!
What can you expect in the CBT test?
CBT means 'computer based test'.
The CBT is comprised of multiple choice questions.
You are given four hours to complete the test.
The questions are specific to nursing in the United Kingdom, and are also general nursing questions, like common medications and health conditions. There are also drug calculation questions.
My top tips for sitting the CBT
The computer based test has 120 multiple choice questions.
You get 4 hours to complete the exam.
• Start studying around 4 weeks beforehand and then spend a few hours studying each day in the last two weeks.
• No calculators are permitted in the exam so practise long multiplication and division just in case you get a difficult drug calculation.
• Take your time during the exam, and triple check your answers before you submit.
• Always go with the SAFEST option when thinking of the best and most appropriate answer. PLAY IT SAFE!
• Read the questions a few times before answering because they can be confusing.
• Do some mock exams*
*I found doing some mock exams really helpful. It gave me an idea of how the CBT will be structured and what sort of questions will be asked. Plus, a whole bunch of the same questions were in the actual CBT!
Revision tips for the CBT
The CBT is all about safety, and proving that you will act appropriately in difficult situations.
Be sure to study all of the common adult conditions.
Know your safeguarding.
Revise physiology and practice your drug calculations.
Look, you are going to be a UK nurse. So start thinking like one.
There's no point revising from New Zealand websites.
You need to know UK policies. UK nursing is quite different to New Zealand nursing so don't assume you’ll know everything – you won’t.
Here are my revision tips:
• Know the nursing code and standards - all here
• Know the process of safeguarding vulnerable people
• Know how to recognise abuse
• Drug calculations (without a calculator, remember)
• Know all the common acute and chronic conditions
• Get familiar with the scoring tools and systems used in the UK (NEWS, AVPU, GCS, Waterlow scale)
• Consent, end of life care and advanced directives
• Blood transfusion and related topics (the different blood types, BT reactions and how to treat them)
• Remember pressure ulcers (scoring, prevention and treatment) and wound care basics
• Revise around mental health e.g. suicidal ideation and confidentiality
What is the OSCE?
OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination.
It is an assessment based on the candidates’ performance in a clinical environment.
The OSCE is comprised of six stations:
5 + 6. two skills stations
In each station you are given a scenario and task which you have around 15 minutes to complete.
The OSCE is recorded and marked afterward by independent assessors.
My 5 tips on how to get through the OSCE
1. Have a nutritious breakfast
2. Listen to calming music beforehand and learn deep breathing techniques to calm your nerves
3. Take water/toilet breaks in between stations to gather your thoughts
5. Double check that your documentation is correct before finishing
How long does it take to study for the OSCE?
I would recommend spending at least 2 months preparing for the OSCE.
The more time you have to prepare, the more confident you will feel.
Prepare a script and learn it by heart.
Repetition and rehearsing the OSCE is key to passing.
What kind of courses are there to help you pass the OSCE?
There are a few 2-3 day courses available, but none of them are endorsed by the NMC.
Some nurses have found them helpful, and if you are short on time, they are a great way to quickly prepare for the exam.
If you work for a NHS trust I would recommend asking them to help you prepare.
What New Zealand nursing qualifications do I need to work permanently in the UK?
Yes, but you will need a work visa to work in the UK as a nurse.
How do I get a visa to work in the UK as a nurse?
If you are under 31, the youth mobility visa is popular amongst kiwis and Australians, as it permits two years of work in the UK.
There are a few different visas that are available to kiwis, but I’m on a tier 5 visa (aka working holiday) which gives me two years to live and work in the UK.
If your partner is English, you may qualify for a partnership or spousal visa.
If your parents or grandparents are English, you may qualify for an ancestry visa.
You can apply for your working holiday visa here.
Do I need a job offer before I can move to the UK to work as a nurse?
If you are on a partner/youth mobility visa, you don’t need a job offer before arriving in the UK.
How long does it take to register in the UK as a foreign nurse from New Zealand?
The whole process of registering in the UK as a foreign nurse from New Zealand can take anywhere from 5 - 18 months, or even longer.
I started my application in November 2018, and received my registration pin in December 2019.
That means I missed out on 13 months of valuable nursing experience.
When my savings ran low, I had no choice but to work as a healthcare assistant in nursing homes to make ends meet.
Thankfully, I didn’t give up, and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
How much does the whole process cost to register in the UK as a foreign nurse from New Zealand?
The entire application, including exams, costs £1,170.
This cost does not include certifying documents, etc.
If you fail either of the exams, that amount can easily double.
Depending on where you are coming from, flights and visas can cost upwards of £3,000.
The total cost can be well over £4,170 just to be a NMC Registered Nurse in the UK.
You will need to prove that you have enough savings to support yourself until you get a job here (around $4,000 NZD).
Most overseas nurses simply cannot afford to register with the NMC, or they do not want to take the risk of moving across the world.
I would encourage all overseas nurses to still apply in the UK. Here's two great reasons why:
2. You will have endless opportunities waiting for you
If I can do it, so can you.
An introduction to the NHS in the UK for overseas nurses
The National Health Service (NHS) launched in 1948.
The NHS provides government funded medical and healthcare services to all United Kingdom citizens which are free at the point of use.
The NHS is funded by the British tax payer.
All appointments and treatments are free to the patient.
Are there more jobs in the NHS rather than the private sector for NZ nurses?
I believe this is due to the population: there are 59.9 million MORE people in the UK!
Why I chose to work for the NHS
As a theatre nurse I care for my patient while they are anaesthetised and assist the surgeon in a range of procedures.
It is my responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of my patient is upheld at all times.
I am their eyes and voice while they are asleep, so I take my job seriously.
The lack of resources in the NHS and constant stream of patients can be tiring; I sometimes make the joke that our theatres should have a revolving door.
At the NHS we do our best and push ourselves to the limit, yet there are still not enough hours in the day to treat everyone who requires surgery.
Most emergency surgery can be done the same day, but elective patients can wait up to a year.
What does that actually mean for those who work in the NHS?
Sometimes we have lunch late or skip our afternoon break if it means we can treat one more patient.
Typically, there are two scrub nurses in each theatre per shift.
We take turns in surgery, alternating between circulating and scrubbing.
I spend most of my usual 14 hour shift on my feet.
Sometimes I can be scrubbed for over 6 hours at a time, without a toilet break, without even being able to scratch my nose!
Call me crazy, but despite all of the above, I absolutely love working for the NHS.
Well, in five months I have scrubbed in for over 30 different surgeries.
My clinical and scrub skills have grown exponentially.
From leg amputations, post-partum haemorrhage, gynaecological cancer, to gastric bypasses, there is no shortage of valuable experience.
Each day is challenging and different - I am always learning and improving.
I have learned more about human anatomy than any degree could teach.
I have helped to save the lives of many people.
I have laughed with my patients, cried for my patients, and everything in between.
Most importantly, I have been welcomed, supported, and encouraged by my amazing colleagues.
With more funding and a focus on recruiting and training staff, I believe the NHS can be the leading healthcare provider in the world.
Why I chose to live in Cornwall in the UK
I work as a theatre nurse at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.
The choice to live in Cornwall was based on my partner who is a professional rugby player.
He was offered a contract here so we flew down to visit the area before accepting.
The rugged coastline, white sand beaches, and relaxed atmosphere reminded me of my southern hemisphere home.
Most Kiwi and Australian Nurses end up in London; enticed by the hustle of a big city, the endless amount of jobs, and enhanced pay.
It is safe to say that working in a busy NHS hospital is far cry from the private clinic in New Zealand.