Going Global: Becoming a Nurse in the UK

In the midst of thinking about possible guest posts, I had a sudden flash of inspiration! What if we opened our minds a little bit to the world of nursing …. around the world! I think it would be so interesting to hear how our experiences as nurses and students compare and contrast. Do we share in the same struggles or do the politics and culture of our home countries affect how we practice and how we experience nursing? How do we learn our roles? What about when we take our education and clinical knowledge…and then move across an ocean and try to apply those skills in a new place?

If you’ve had a cross-cultural or international experience that inspired you or affected your practice, I’d love to share your story here. I’m working on a post of my own about my postgrad year in Ghana and how it led me into nursing in the first place. (Oh and P.S. … you don’t have to be a nurse – I’d love to hear from health care professionals of all stripes!)


So let’s expand our reach, shall we? Starting with the United Kingdom. My flatmates in Ghana were from the UK and I adored them. One of them was a nurse,  and it was our friendship that helped inspire me to pursue the same journey. So I was beyond delighted when the folks at Nurse Jobs UK contacted me and asked to share what it takes to become a nurse on the other side of the pond. We’ll learn about this process in two parts: Part I will be about the education and training required to become a nurse in the UK. Part II, later this week, will cover the steps you’ll need to take if you are already a nurse and find yourself relocating and seeking licensure. And away we go…

If you’re thinking about how to become a nurse in the UK, whether you need to train from scratch or register your nursing skills we’ll look at how you can make that happen. Guest post by Sarah Gill, Nurses.co.uk.

There are four branches of nurse training available in the UK – adult, mental health, child and learning disability. When you applying to university to study nursing you must choose at the point of application which branch of nursing you want to study. Every nursing course consists of 50% practical work and 50% theoretical work. The practical part of the course happens through placements in local healthcare services, and the theoretical part of the course is delivered through lectures, seminars, group learning activities and some web based learning.

As a first year nursing student, you will all study the same foundation course material as each other regardless of the branch you want to specialise in. This part of the course includes modules such as social sciences for nursing, foundations in evidence based practice, biological sciences applied to nursing, nursing concepts, skills for study and research as well as skills for practice.

It’s common for the first term of the course to consist entirely of theory orientated learning, but after that will begin going out on placements. You will have a range of different placements lasting up to 6 weeks, and the majority will be tailored to the branch of nursing you’re studying, but will include both clinical and community nursing. For example, a learning disability nursing student could be placed with a district nurse team, a supported living team, an assessment and treatment unit, a community LD nursing team or a day service for users with challenging behaviour.

Throughout the second year students continue with both their placement-based and academic learning. The NMC require all pre-registration students to have experience of 24 hour care so you will be working a range of different shifts while on a placement, including long days (usually 7am – 7pm) and nights (often 8pm – 8am). When you progress to the third year you will continue with both parts of your learning but one of your placements will be a management and leadership placement, and will require you to take a leading role in the team.

Nursing students are always supported by a personal tutor based at the university and a mentor, usually working in the department alongside the student. They will monitor progress, support your learning and eventually sign you off as competent at the end of that placement. Mentors are registered nurses who have also undertaken additional training in mentorship, and they are there to support you as you develop into a competent nurse.

In a recent interview, three learning disability nurses talked to us about their nursing training:

“Student Nurses are viewed as adult learners, and are therefore expected to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and development. This is matched to the current view that learning is a lifelong activity. It is also matched to the occupational requirement of professional autonomy and flexibility, responsive to changing health care needs, and is supported by the vision of nursing education expressed in “Creating the Potential” (NAW,2000).”

Once the three years (or four years depending on the course pathway) of training are complete, your documentation and proof of your education is sent to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, who issue all nursing and midwifery registrations in the UK. Once they approve your application, you will be issued with your PIN number, which is the essential recognition of your nursing skills and allows you practice as a registered nurse in the UK.

About Nurses.co.uk. We’re a job board featuring nursing and midwifery jobs primarily in the UK, but we do also advertise jobs in Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. We regularly publish career advice articles, interviews with nurses currently working in the UK and recruiters that employ nurses. You can find us at Nurses.co.uk, on our Nurses Facebook page and on Twitter @NursesJobs.

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