...BlogsYour roadmap to nursing in the UK: from OET to NMC registration
Your roadmap to nursing in the UK: from OET to NMC registration


The National Health Service (NHS) is the cornerstone of UK healthcare, offering vital services daily through dedicated professionals. Internationally trained healthcare professionals often find success with the NHS, relocating with their families for a fulfilling career in the UK. 

Planning your move to the UK is a significant milestone for your global nursing career. To help you get organised, we’ve created this guide to walk you through each step. We spoke with Tracey Collins, the Head of International Nursing and Workforce at Devon Alliance, about the processes and considerations nurses make when preparing to work for the NHS.  

Devon Alliance is a recruitment organisation that collaborates with the NHS to place internationally trained nurses and healthcare professionals within the UK's healthcare system. Throughout this guide, we've included insights and recommendations from Tracey, along with useful links to assist you along the way. 

In this article, we'll use the term "NHS Trust/s". Think of an NHS Trust as a large hospital, an integral part of the NHS. Each NHS Trust operates with its own budget and functions independently to cater to the needs of the local community. 


Step 1: Prepare for success with the OET Test 


The first step is to begin preparing for the OET Test. This is a crucial part of planning your career in the UK's healthcare sector because it validates your English skills for professional registration. The OET Test is designed specifically for healthcare professionals, and assesses you on familiar healthcare scenarios, making passing more straightforward. 

“I have tried taking the IELTS exam three times but did not get the score I needed. My next step was to try the OET exam. I received the necessary coaching at a training centre in Dubai and there were many OET resources online which really helped me. As a result, I successfully passed my OET exam on my first attempt scoring Grade B in all four aspects.” 

— Charlene Dsouza, Senior Nurse Clinician at The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust


In the UK, NHS Trusts recognise the OET Test as evidence of English proficiency, for healthcare workers like doctors, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals. You can easily share your OET Test results directly with NHS Trusts when you apply for positions. 

When you apply for NHS jobs,  you'll usually need to let them know if you've already passed your English test. Having your OET Test certification not only helps employers and recruitment agencies consider you for interviews (along with other factors), but it also makes the recruitment process smoother and faster for you. 

You can find out more about preparation for the OET Test here and book your test now.  



Step 2: Apply for vacancies and reach out to recruiters 


As you take this next step, it's a great idea to explore different regions in the UK where you can see yourself living and working happily. With over 200 Trusts spread across the country, there are plenty of options for healthcare professionals like you. Take some time to get to know various cities and towns, making sure they feel right for both you and your loved ones. 

In the UK, living costs vary a lot depending on where you are, especially when it comes to rent. For example, renting a one-bedroom apartment in central London can be 200-300% more expensive than some smaller cities. So, it's smart to check out rental prices in the areas you're interested in. But remember, there is more to consider than just rent. While living in the South of England costs more than in the North, if you find a cozy town where you can walk or bike to work, you could save a lot on transportation, which might balance out the higher rent. So, think about what you value in an area and how it fits with your budget and lifestyle.  

Once you've got an idea of where you might want to live, it's time to start looking into the Trusts and employers with job vacancies. You can apply directly to a Trust by applying for a listing, or you can go through an ethical recruitment partner like Devon Alliance. 



Step 3: Interview 


After applying, the next step may be an online interview, a crucial moment for you and the NHS Trust to connect and assess your fit for the role. If they are interested in your application, you'll receive an invitation to this virtual meeting (e.g. online via a computer or your phone).  

If you apply via a recruitment partner, they will coordinate the interview process for you in conjunction with the NHS Trust you wish to work for. 

The interview is your chance to shine by highlighting your qualifications and personality, while also more about the role and workplace culture. If the interview goes well and you leave a positive impression, you might get a conditional job offer. 

We've compiled helpful tips in this article to help you prepare. From mastering virtual communication to demonstrating your relevant experiences, these insights will give you the tools to be confident for your next interview.  



Step 4: Start NMC Registration 


Once you receive your conditional offer, you can begin the registration process with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This process starts in your home country, where you'll need to submit documentation such as proof of education and undergo an ID assessment, which the NMC will verify.  Your recruitment agency/partner or prospective employer in the UK can guide you on the required documentation. 



Step 5: Test of Competence – Computer-Based Test (CBT) 


Once you’ve started the registration process, you’ll sit two separate Test of Competence (ToC) assessments. The first one, CBT will need to be taken in your home country before you plan to leave as part of the visa requirements. The CBT is split into two parts:  

  • Part A covers numeracy  
  • Part B covers clinical questions for midwifery or nursing 

Your NHS Trust or recruiter will let you know if they’ll cover the assessment fees. For more information about the NMC CBT click here 


Step 6: Visa application 


To work in the UK as a nurse, you need a Health and Care visa. To find out more about the visa and the benefits of working in the UK, read our blog 

Your future employer will help you throughout this process, guiding you on the required documents for your application. In some cases, they may even handle the application and cover associated costs. 

If it all feels overwhelming, don't worry – moving abroad is a big step, and the process can seem complex. It's normal to have lots of questions, and your employer and recruitment partners are here to support you. They have extensive experience bringing international nurses to the UK and are eager to address any concerns you may have. So, don't hesitate to reach out – gaining clarity and peace of mind is crucial. 

For your Health and Care visa application, one essential document you'll need is a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) from your employer. This document demonstrates to the UK government that your employer is sponsoring your visa application. 

The Health and Care visa allows nurses to bring dependents to the UK. Dependents have the right to work, whether in the NHS or another sector, or they may choose not to work. 

Who qualifies as a dependent? 

  • Your spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner 
  • Children under 18, including those born in the UK during your stay 
  • Children over 18 if they're currently in the UK as your dependents 

While reassuring to know you can bring your family, it's wise for them to join you a few months after you've settled into your new role and country, following your registration with the NMC. This is so you can focus on setting yourself up for success, as you'll need to finalise your registration and taking the OSCE exam.  Additionally, your initial salary may not be sufficient to cover accommodation for your entire family and all expenses until you're fully registered and working. While most Trusts offer welcome packages, including temporary accommodation for individuals, these do not extend to your entire family. Considering these factors ensures a smooth transition for everyone involved! 



Step 7: Arrival in the UK 


Once your visa is approved, it's time to start packing! 

The recruitment process was hassle-free, as I was supported at every step with all my queries, doubts, and concerns promptly addressed. For example, my entire journey from Dubai to the UK was planned for me, with all travel information provided, and a guide was sent by email. The Trust and the Devon Alliance together ensured my journey was smooth and well-organized, thereby ensuring I travelled with ease and comfort.” 

— Charlene Dsouza, Senior Nurse Clinician at The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

The specifics of your relocation package depend on the Trust you are working with, as each one has its own policies. Some Trusts might cover the cost of your travel tickets, while others might not. Additionally, many Trusts offer various support services, such as meeting you at the airport and providing transportation to your temporary accommodation. Often, they also provide temporary housing for newly arrived nurses for a few months, after which you will need to arrange your own rental. There will be details to work through, like getting a SIM card and opening a bank account. But don't worry – you'll have a point of contact from the Trust or recruitment agency to support you and answer your questions along the way. 

"It's good to know that your pay starts from your first day in the UK, usually at a lower band than Band 5 until you complete your registration with NMC and get your PIN*. – Some Trusts also recognise your prior experience and will place you on a pay scale within the band 5 once you pass your OSCE." 

- Tracey Collins, Head of International Nursing and Workforce at the Devon Alliance 


*PIN (Personal Identification Number):  When a nurse is registered with the NMC, they're given a PIN. This PIN is important because it shows that the nurse is registered and allowed to work as a nurse in the UK. 



Step 8: Test of Competence - Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) 


The OSCE is the final assessment for completing NMC registration, and your Trust's NHS education team will help you prepare. It's common for new recruits to stick together and support each other through this shared preparation experience, and often they become real friends. 

"The OSCE exam requirements are very specific so it can be difficult to pass the exam on the first attempt. The good news is that the Trust clinical education teams are there to help every step of the way. You're not alone in this journey! They offer guidance and are fantastic at supporting individuals through the process."  

- Tracey Collins, Head of International Nursing and Workforce at the Devon Alliance 

For more information on the OSCE structure, you can read here. 



Step 9: Finalise your NMC registration and get your PIN 


After successfully passing your OSCE, you’ll be nearly done with your journey to becoming a registered nurse in the UK!  

The last step is to complete your online registration application with the NMC and provide various documents, including proof of identity, qualifications, language proficiency, a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, and a health declaration. 

"The average timescale from arriving in the UK, to passing your OSCE and receiving your PIN number is approximately four months, but it can vary. Sometimes it's earlier, sometimes later. However, from a visa perspective, you have an 8-month window to pass the OSCE and complete your registration with the NMC."  

- Tracey Collins, Head of International Nursing and Workforce at the Devon Alliance 

Once you've submitted all the necessary information, the NMC aims to assess your application within 30 days. You'll be notified of the decision via email, and they will provide instructions for obtaining your PIN, marking your official registration as a nurse or midwife in the UK! 

So, if you’re about to start your journey to the UK or are somewhere in the middle, remember the famous UK phrase: Keep Calm and Carry On!   


Are you ready to take your first step towards becoming a nurse in the UK? Download our OET Study Guide now to learn all you need to know about your English exam. 


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