travel nurse us to uk

An American nurse in London: Is it worth it?

Fresh off the boat was a term I’d heard once or twice amongst my former travels, usually referring to an immigrant who had recently arrived in a new country of chosen inhabitance. Fresh off the boat instantly became my joking term to explain my newfound situation to random UK citizens who felt the need to ask where I was from and when I arrived. Here’s a shocker: There aren’t many Americans working in London, or anywhere really outside of the United States.I was commonly asked, “Where is that accent from? Are you Canadian? Why did you come here ?”

When asked why I came to London to try nursing, all I could really think to answer is that I came for the experience and to see what it is like living outside of the United States. I had travelled on my own a-plenty, to many countries around the world, so I wanted to know what it was like to live  in one of them. London, UK just happened to be the easiest one for me, and lucky for me, I have learned why.

When you have a system of free health care such as in the National Health Service of the UK, better known as the NHS, and too many people are in frequent need of healthcare, there is naturally going to be a lot of stress placed on workers. Frankly, it’s stressful working for the NHS, or any healthcare system, really. People in need and who are sick, injured, mentally stressed, et cetera, are going to want good healthcare, and they’re going to want it then and not later. The NHS is “free”, so people are going to come no matter what, even if it means waiting in line for seven hours.

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However, despite the stress and relentless determination that it takes to work in one of the largest cities in the world, equipped with the most widely recognized free health system, you have to be ready to handle the stress, ready to learn quite a lot, and ready to use both this stress and newfound knowledge to your advantage. When asked if working in the UK as a nurse has been worth it? Yes, it has been, without a doubt.

I moved to London, and as those who have lived in London are aware, London is not the friendliest of cities. It is unique, and it will challenge you on its own. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a lovely city, incredibly fun and interesting, and the people are undeniably fantastic, but the city in general is intense and testing. You have constant weather changes, the ongoing persona of people on the go, every culture within close proximity, non-stop public transportation to every corner, and the overall accumulation of parks, buildings, history, et cetera. It’s madness so intricately combined that it somehow works, and this is London.

Of course, moving to London alone required adaptation, but coming to London to work as a nurse required something else, like, durability. It was hard. It was honestly very hard, because the system is not set up to favor those pretentious nurses that come from America, like me. Can it be done, yes, but it is quite the test. First, the non-EU nurse has to go through a set of steps to enter the country to be able to work. That’s pretty standard when wanting to move abroad for work. Once that’s completed, the non-EU nurse is then able to start working, but only as a nurse assistant until a clinical test called the OSCE is completed. Okay, also pretty standard. This may seem rather bleak and programmatic, but it’s harder than it seems for the already trained nurse because it’s essentially like having to go backwards. I kept wanting to do more than I was legally able to do because I had not yet completed the OSCE. It took about 2 months from my time of arrival to the UK to be trained well enough for the OSCE, because each NHS hospital has its own ways of training, and that takes about 2 months.

There is also the fact that your skill set is bound to change. As a former American medical surgical/ICU nurse who had training in a number of tough skills, I had to accept that those skills meant nothing, that I was equivalent to a new nurse fresh out of nursing school. Talk about self-deprecating. I had to learn the UK way of assessment and performance, and basically had to become retrained and signed off on skills that I already knew and had excelled at. Obviously completing the requirements was easy; accepting that I had to repeat training was more difficult.

Then, there is the fact that the hospital you will work for is going to be an NHS hospital, which means it’s a “free, public hospital”. Yes, there are private hospitals, but these are not easy to get on board with initially. Usually private hospitals look for at least 6 months to a year of UK experience, so the NHS it is until then. The NHS is a beautiful thing, really. It’s an extremely generous and fair system, and the UK citizens are quite in favor, as they should be. It is a stressful system to work for, but it is also a good system to work for. The NHS has some highly recognizable university hospitals that produce exceptional research and training programs. Nearly all of the care is evidence-based and sound. Once you find your place in the NHS, I guarantee that you will enjoy the knowledge and challenges.

Essentially, moving to London for work as a nurse is like throwing oneself into deep water. The learning curve is steep, and the direct teaching is sparse; but the expectations are still high. You have to adapt quickly and figure out how things work with limited support within months, and that is challenging. If you are able to make it through the first months, you will eventually witness yourself change as a nurse, more accepting of challenges, and overall more independent.

I believe the best part of coming to London to work as a nurse has been just that—coming to London to work as a nurse. It has been life changing, and has really helped me to become a stronger, wiser, braver, more self-assured, not just nurse, but person. It also has helped me to become a better nurse, for it has helped me to grow independently. It is has helped me to be more considerate of others, to be mindful of various cultures and races. Surprisingly, it has also made me more confident in initiating the nurse-leader role. I have never been so confident in wanting to lead others in experience and knowledge.

Coming abroad as a nurse has not been easy, but it has been fun, and so worth it. If I could suggest to other nurses to consider trying nursing in another country, whether it be the UK, Australia, Dubai, or anywhere else in the world, I would say one hundred percent, go for it!

Mary Costello is a nurse living in London.

The views and opinions expressed by Perspectives contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal . These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.


I’m an RN in California attempting to register in the NMC cause I’m planning on moving to the UK. I’m currently lost about how to get my registration verified by the NMC. I went online at the California board of nursing and found out that I need a physical address to send the verification. But I can’t seem to find what that address is for the NMC nor can I find a way to get in touch with them to ask the same. Any help would be highly appreciated

Their address is on the NMC website

Hi tshering. I’m interested in doing the same thing and wanted to know if you figured out how to do this? Also, do you know what the difference in pay is for nurses here versus nurses in the UK? Thank you!

I’m a nurse in the US, trained in the US. I’ve worked abroad for the US. Every year the allergies are the worst for me! After taking an allergy test, the best location for my health is London; per the research. I’m a NP and nurse. I’m not sure if it’s worth moving to another country after reading this article.

I agree this article scares me and I’ve heard the pay is not great. I would like to know who arranges the housing?

Some employers, especially at the countryside, will give you 2 months of free accommodation. After that, you need to find your own. In London, I was not given a free accommodation, so before I started my work, I found a flat through Rightmove Uk. Typically, agents or Landlord would ask for reference and deposits. Goodluck.

I am an RN who did my training in Uk then repatriated to the W.I. Where I worked as a staff nurse for 3 years and nurse supervisor for 3 years. Soon after that I moved to NY where I had to apply to the State University Ed Dept and take the NCLEX (State Board exam). I was a little torn at first but, after working in the US as an RN. I understand fully the reason behind the process. Nursing is nursing all over the world but we use different terminology, abbreviations, etc. although the medications may in some cases be the same the names are very different and sometimes the reasoning that facilitates treatment are also different. Therefore, it takes time to get used to that particular country’s method of reasoning & also their rationale. However, once you have that down Pat it is pretty much 2nd nature. I completed my BSN & MSN here in the USA. I love the practical knowledge I got in UK but appreciate so very much the theory that was pumped into my brain cells here in USA. In addition there are so much more opportunities here in the USA for nurses. The British system is impeccable and I am glad for my exposure to both. I have only gained from this and say nothing negative about either. I have lived in The US too long and my children are American so I guess with that I am all in. I would not choose to do it any other way even if I could. I Love London UK & I love NY USA.

Been a nurse in the UK for 3 years now and I think that’s a fair amount of time to know what I really want. Back home in PH, our accreditation and hospital system is more of American, at the end of the day I still wanted to work in an American health care. A month from now, I am moving to the US and I can’t wait to finally fulfil my dream since nursing school. UKRN to USRN.

Am a Ghanaian RN planning to either relocate to the UK or US. This article has really given me the final nod as to what to do. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Am a kenya registered nurse currently working in the U.K. for one and half years .Am in the process of applying to the US with Avant healthcare it a great idea or should I remain in the U.K.?

Amazing article! I can relate as a UKRN working in the NHS ( Geriatric Ward) for 2 years now. However, I am contemplating applying to the US. What do you think is the difference with regards to salary, living expenses and patient: ratio/workload? Where do you think should I start to have an easy transition as a USRN? Thank you!

It depends on the unit you work as far as the ratio. ED 3-4:1 medical surgical 5-6:1. And I heard the pay is better in the States. Look online to get ideas. Good luck

Hi there ,I’m a Romanian Medical Assistant in General Medicine (Registered Nurse) and this is my 5th year in the UK. Had done a Bsc top up and now finishing my Msc in Advanced Nursing Practice . Is there anyone knowing 🤔 if and how can I transfer as Nurse Practitioner from UK to 🇺🇸US ???I know the education is not at the same level (as I have a aunt there as Doctor of Nursing Practice 🇺🇸 ).Here for qualifying as a prescriber you need 78 hrs of placement for prescribing vs 1200 hrs in US . I contacted the BON Texas and they said as long as I have Advanced Physical Assessment, Advanced Pharmacology and Advanced Pathophysiology (which we don’t do that much in the Msc) is ok but they weren’t sure as they never registered a British Nurse practitioner.

All you have to do is to apply to any opening position here in the United State

Born and raised in San Francisco, I started my nurse training in London in 1967. I lived and worked as a nurse in the Ik for twenty years before retiring to the US. Both countries have very different cultural styles for nurses. I am forever grateful to have current friendships with both English and American ladies that I went to nursing school with over fifty years ago. So proud of my nursing career.

Nursing is a special career and wherever it is practiced is a gift to patients and their families.

Mary Costello, you don’t know how I understand you. Very empathetic writing.

Great article: found completely by accident! I will retire soon (hopefully) here in the US and thought about a job in the UK for a while. Great info: thanks for writing.

Hi, Mary! How about the salary you get being a Nurse in UK and before in US? Was there are big difference? Do find UK Nurses are well compensated compared to US? Thank you

As of now 10/18/2021, the starting salary in New York is $90,000. excluding the shift differential, BSN, Masters, 16 sick time, 12 holiday pay,4 weeks vacation.Union dues for your retirement, hospital retirement, free health care blah blah blah. Good luck.

I have a BSN from NYU. My first RN job was in Brooklyn. The starting pay was around what you describe but we had to pay for health, vision, dental (not much, but it was not free). I lived in West Harlem at the time so it was a commute of around 3 to 4 hours daily. I then worked in central PA where the pay was less (no surprise) but a weak union meant only 25% or so of the RNs were full-time, the rest of us were “part-time” but almost full-time hours. Our schedule changed weekly and there were rotating shifts. It was horrible. I went back to school and became a school nurse: way better conditions and regular hours.

I don’t know if this is still live.. as in if anyone will reply, but I’m a year 2 nurse in the UK and desperately want to go over to the US / Canada for a year or two to work and travel, however every where I look you have to have 2 year min experience! I guess my question is A) Does anyone know if this is set in stone or are there ways to move there with either just 1 year or a few months experience, and B) how difficult is the NCLEX, I may be wrong but with the NHS being so desperate for staff I have seen loads of people flying through OSCE with ease. I hope that makes sense, and any other tips for the US / CAN/ EU travelling plan would be HUGELY appreciated!

I meant Yr 2 Nursing Student!

I thought the NCLEX was easy, so I guess it depends on your study skills and commons sense. Truly that’s how you pass the NCLEX, if you have common sense you will pass it. Nursing 101. I didn’t study, I was last one to enter exam room, and first one to finish. My NCLEX stopped at 85 questions which meant I got enough right in a short time that I passed, NCLEX goes up to over 200 questions depending on how many you get right in a time period but have to get to at least 85 questions.

NCLEX is hard but it’s meant to be. Common sense is a flower that does not grow in everyone’s garden. Work through as many NCLEX practice questions as possible and you will be fine. In general, most positions are not for new grads. Those are far fewer and far between but they do exist! You may need to look at different cities at different times of the year to find them.

The NCLEX is difficult in that it is not a straight forward exam. You arent gonna get any questions that follow “You patient presents with A, and has a history of B, and you do C” I was in a mental pretzel doing it and felt like I had no idea how I was doing, but passed in the minimum amount of questions, meaning I could not have done better. I really recommend using Uworld to study, once you learn how to take a Nclex test, it becomes easier.

If you do the study prep through Kaplan etc and are diligent with that, the NCLEX is OK.

This is a fantastic article. However, I’m a UKRN wanting to work in the US. I have worked for more than 2 years here and still I can’t let go of all the learnings I learned when I was in the Philippines, which is basically like an American health system. And for which I miss it a lot, being an independent nurse.

Kudos to you Mary on your new journey! I want to move to the UK as a nurse. This article helps alot.Thank You very much for the information!

I am glad it helped! Good luck!

Hello! I am graduating with a BSN next Spring. Would I be eligible to work as a new grad in London? Do you know where I could start looking for these entry level hospital positions? Thanks so much!

Hello, yes, I have a friend who recently did this to be with her partner who is British. It is surely possible. Good luck.

I’m pretty sure you have to have a year’s working experience as an RN in order to start the process for getting on the NMC register. I am a US trained RN but a UK citizen and I have looked into working in the UK.

Mary, can you tell me if in the UK the American LPN equivalent exists? Thank you

I am unsure. Check with the UK NMC, they would be able to tell you!

I am in the beginning process of applying for my license. I am gathering the info for the eligibility application but I am unsure what they mean by qualification certificate, registration certificate, and name of my regulator. Could you tell me what documents they mean for me to go from American paperwork?

You will have to check with the NMC regarding this question. Thank you!

I really liked your article. It definitely helped me out because I have read both good and bad reviews. However, I am not looking to live in London. Are there any other cities that people would suggest? Did you use an agency to get over there? what were your first steps to begin the process to move there? Thanks again!

I would begin with applying to the country/state nursing board, because you can’t work without their approval. Agencies can help a lot in the process, so finding a good one is ideal, too. Thanks for reading!

Hi Brittney, I am a registered nurse in the UK. My place of work is a city called Birmingham. Its the 2nd largest city, it has good travel links and is considered more friendly than London. It has both large and small hospitals with outlying counties that also have good size hospitals. Worcester, is also within a reasonable distance of Birmingham with a more countryside feeling to it. Its relatively safe here if pick a decent area to live in. You can work agency within the hospital system itself, where you can pick shifts to suit yourself. Wherever you choose good luck.

Well.. I cannot keep quiet and would like to mention some things. I am an European trained nurse over 20 years ago. I moved to London 15 years ago and then came to US 5 years ago.. that is such a story itself. I disagree with that “free” NHS since contributing so much myself and everyone living there. I can actually post a corner of my pay check form 2014. So, NHS is not free people. I pay less in US for my insurance with a small deductible and not only better, WAY better services in here. Secondly, the nurses training in Europe is tough. American schools have you “ ready “ in 18 months to be an RN. Come on .. I have been in school 4 years to be an RN. Is a confusion. LPN, RN, BSN. A money making industry. So as you can see I am not on either side. But let’s be honest here. NHS ain’t free. And the testing for American nurses moving to UK over it s easy. I did both. UK and US /famous NCLEX. So please American people, consider yourself lucky! Happy 4th July!

You’re correct. It’s not technically free at all. Pros and cons to each. Thank you for your opinion! 🙂

Hey Ana! My name is Tatiana. I just moved to UK from US. I have Associates degree in Nursing (Completed in US) with 20 months of experience in med-surg unit. I ‘m planning to apply to become a nurse in England. Do you know if UK board will accept my with Associates degree? On one website I’ve read that only Bachelor’s degree is acceptable.

You do not need a BSN, but you have to prove that your classwork/degree requirements match what is required in the UK. Good luck!

Hi Ana, can I ask for your opinion on which is better: UKRN or USRN in terms of workload, cost of living and earnings. Could you briefly discuss the steps on shifting from UKRN to USRN? Thanks!?

Mary, thank you for the article. It was very helpful. I am looking to work in London, I am an RN with 7 years experience, BSN, and Oncology Certification. Should I allow COVID-19 travel restrictions to put off the process of starting to get on the registry or just continue to move forward?

I would do as much as you can and continue with the process. However, I’d doubt the UK would let an American in now, even to work. You may have to wait until they remove the restrictions. I would check with the UK embassy, they’ll be able to tell you more.

Hey Mary! I was wondering, how many years of nursing experience does it take to apply with the NMC to work in the UK. I will be graduating in 2021 and would love to start nursing directly in the UK. Also, did you do everything through the NMC or was there another registry that you applied to?

You’ll have to check with NMC requirements. If I remember correctly, I believe 2 years was the minimum when I applied.

Did you still need to take the CBT and the OSCE or jus the OSCE? I am currently working in the NHS as a part of an IPC team in Birmingham and I totally understood what you meant when you mentioned the step back and how different the NHS mentality is than US-based healthcare!

Both! The CBT and the OSCE. Congrats on working in the NHS! Stay safe.

This is a great article Mary, truly! It is exactly what I’ve been looking for to gain some knowledge on the America to London transition. I work in sales with a BA in another subject and I’m considering going back to school for an Associates in Nursing just to go off to work and live in London. I’ve been there several times and it takes you out of the entitled American mindset almost immediately. It’s tough but the people are fantastic! As far as schooling, would you recommend going back to school in America or just going to school in London? Thanks for your feedback! I hope you make more inspiring articles like this. It’s hard to find any first hand content on this subject.

Thank you. Yes, it is good to expand your horizon so to speak and try other places. It was difficult but worth it. Good luck in your endeavorers.

Hey Mary! Is there any way I can contact you about getting a visa/studying for their exam? And what other credentials you’d need to move over there from the US? I have so many questions

Definitely check with the NMC website and see what they currently require. They also have studying advice. I would start there. Thanks for reading!

Hi! Thanks for the article. By ‘nurse’ do you mean RN with Associates degree or a BSN? I have a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, but I am also an RN with an Associates degree only…. not the BSN. (yes, I went backwards getting a BA first then Associates)… Can you tell me if England accepts RNs with associates only? Thank you!

They do! I had only an ASN degree when I moved there, and finished my BSN while overseas. You have to show that all credits/hours match the UK system’s. Good luck!

I’m a California nurse looking at a potential move with family in tow. This post scares, but excites me (I mean, c’mon…California ratios to NHS?!). My husband is a British citizen, but we’re worried about the time and money to move a family with two small children. I’ve visited many times and we have family on the outskirts of London with a potential place to stay..makes things a little easier. Are there any particular links you would recommend I look at to prepare myself or to help us understand such a move (and nursing) better? Thanks in advance!

Great questions! There were very few links/advice that helped me to understand the transition and what would be ahead. Look at the NMC website and see what they require. Talking to locals is also a great idea!

What are the differences in ratios?

1:8 to 1: 12 (med-surg) 1:2 to 1:4 (CCU+ 16 telemetry monitors to watch)

Based on the NHs hospital I am working at.

Mostly 1:10 or 1:15 in the medical/surgical wards ICU 1:1 (level3) 1:2(level2)

Those are pretty high ratios! Is it similar acuity patients to the US?

Well done and much respect Mary. I definitely agree that nurses trained in the USA should try working abroad. It is totally empowering with some learning curve. I am a US experienced nurse executive working in Saudi Arabia for almost 8 years.

Hi! I have dreamed about moving to England for basically my entire life, I’ve been going every summer since I was 11 because we have family there.

I was just wondering if you have any idea if it would be possible to get a job there fresh out of nursing school? I am in school in the US right now and graduate in May 2021. Do you think I should work in the US for a year and then try and get a job? I would love to just go straight there!

You’re article was very helpful and informative. Thank you!

This is a great question. I would check with the NMC and they’ll be able to tell you more about the requirements. I believe it is possible, but you will still have to pass the CBT and OSCE tests. Check with the NMC, first. Good luck!

Great article! Well said, especially about the mental struggle going backward in training. I was in similar situation coming to US with MD diploma . Nothing I I have done mattered and counted. It is not easy to wrap your mind around it.

Good luck to you!

Good luck to the summit ??

I’m so proud of you Mary and miss you!!

Comments are closed.

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  1 855 207 0164,   1 800 771 640,   1 866 892 2594,   0800 451 971, dial direct, tel   +44 207 408 1234 , fax  +44 207 408 1235, info@continentalnurse. com, testimonial.

travel nurse us to uk


All Aboard! The Travel Nursing Europe Express!

 first stop on the  travel nursing europe express the uk.

First and foremost to register as an RN in the UK you must be an RN in your home country.

  Secondly, you must have 1 full year of experience in your home country before you can become an RN in the UK.

  Third, if you are applying from a country that’s not in the European Union, you will be required to have an assessment of your training. thTe UK has only one licensing board: The Nursing and Midwifery Council. To become an RN in the UK one must pass three tests and apply.

  • A theory Test
  • Clinical Test
  • International English Language Testing System Exam (IELTS)

Once you pass these tests you can join the register of UK travel nurses. Passing all of the necessary tests, completing your application and beginning your first assignment in the UK usually takes 6 months.     But once you do complete the application process you can complete the NMC’s Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP)  While modern nursing was founded by the British, nurses in the UK do not have as much responsibility as their counterparts across the Atlantic. In the UK doctors are those that assess patients and nurses often don’t even analyze blood results, perform injections or read Electrocardiograms .

As with any international labor, you must have a valid Visa to work in the UK. But with the current nursing shortage in the UK right now your skill set is in very high demand so it is very possible for nurses to get a visa.

  For any work Visa, you will need to be sponsored by a health facility where you will have to work for at least one year.

  While there used to be are two tiers of Work Visas that travel nurses typically used, the General Skilled Migration Visa was closed in April 2011.

  The only Work Permit Travel Nurses can apply for is a Tier 2 Work Permit. Since there is a nationwide nursing shortage throughout the UK, Nurses are often heavily considered for a tier 2 work permit since they are filling a position that cannot be filled by a British Citizen.

  The only steps that experienced travel nurses have to worry about is getting a confirmed sponsorship by an Employer in the UK and travel nursing agencies should be able to help with that.

The Next Stop On The Travel Nursing Europe Express! Ireland!

If you’re interested in international travel nursing, but want to keep speaking English, then travel nursing in Ireland is a great opportunity for you! You’d have almost all of Europe at your doorstep! Since the demand for nurses is growing stronger and stronger travel nursing in Ireland is growing increasingly popular.

Travel nursing in Ireland is not easy. To travel nurse in Ireland you have to register with the Irish Nursing Board, or the An Bord Altranais. Their information is listed below. Also, all overseas applications go through the NMBI, The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. They are rejecting applicants at a record rate. Marvel Williamson a nursing school professor and dean with an MSN, a PhD and extensive clinical experience.

Per the there were 101 US applications for travel nursing in Ireland in 2015 and only 9 nurses were admitted. From 2013 there were 247 US applications and only 24 registrations.

One of the most important parts of your overseas application is that you’ve completed 1,533 theoretical hours and 2,300 clinical hours. During the course of a US BSN nurses on average clock 340 theoretical hours, or classroom hours and 1,000 hours of clinical instruction.

Marvel Williamson said that the application process focused on nursing school curriculum over recent work experience. In Irish nursing schools, the clinical hours are comprised of hours in which a student is an apprentice to a nurse without a professor. But in the US almost all clinical hours have professor supervision.

NMBI also understands that US nurses must pass the NCLEX before they become an RN so hours as a graduate nurse may be questioned thoroughly.

Unless you are an EU citizen you will have to get an employment visa.

  Irish Nursing Board:

An Bord Altranais 31/32

Fitzwilliam Square

Dublin 2, Ireland

353-1-639-8500; Fax: 353-1-676-3348

The Travel Nursing Europe Express Keeps Going To Spain!

In the early 2000s, Spain had a glut, or oversupply, of both Doctors and Nurses. But while the glut of doctors has remained, the oversupply of nurses is fading as nurses in 2018 and beyond are in high demand according to the OECD .

The OECD, The Organization of Economic Co-Operation & Development, estimates the worldwide average nurse: inhabitant ratio as 9:1000. Spain today has 5.4 nurses for every 1,000 citizens. Part of that difference can be explained by the Spanish expectation of family members to take care of loved ones after operations, not nurses.

Visiting hours in Spanish hospitals are completely unrestricted as family members can, and often do, stay in the hospital with their loved one all night. Family members usually assume the responsibilities of changing bedpans, spoon feeding & giving the pills the doctor gave them.

The above can be explained, at least partially, by the fact that the Spanish have a public health system that is very underfunded. While Spanish Citizens get to enjoy very cheap healthcare, working with them would require Spanish language fluency.

But there are some coastal areas that can place English speaking nurses as there are pockets of internationals and expatriates. The Nursing agencies in Spain can be difficult to find, as they hardly advertise. There are some online directories of agencies, like this one on the Costa Del Sol .

Costa Del Sol has an aging population, so nurses will often work inside of people’s homes. So while the agencies are looking for qualified nurses, they’re also looking for compassion and care. The setting is a little bit more laid back than a hospital ward, but the tradeoff is that nurses in Spain have to be a little bit more flexible to the patient’s needs and timing. This kind of work is a lot less clinical than most countries.

One piece of advice for travel nurses interested in nursing in Spain is: learn Spanish. The Spanish Nurse’s Association, or La Organización Colegial de Enfermería , has a website that is only in Spanish for example. Also, communication in the medical field can be vital. As accustomed to internationals as the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council is the Spanish Nurses’ Association is not nearly as prepared for international nurses. But Travel Nursing in Spain is very possible, but also might be the last stop of the Travel Nursing Europe Express.

Does The Travel Nursing Europe Express do France?

First and foremost, Travel Nursing in France, like Germany or Sweden, requires complete fluency in the native tongue. No, if you’ve taken a French class in high school and haven’t spoken French since then you’re most likely not fluent.

If you can pass the French competency exam, then you must acquire validation of your medical profession. Unlike the UK, the French will not take your US training into account. French nurses have to go through their own rigorous trade school experience operated by Hospitals.

Even Non-French Europeans have a hard time getting their nursing certifications to be taken seriously inside of France, and for Non-EU citizens, it’s even harder. Unfortunately, in order for the Travel Nursing Europe Express to continue in France, an American would have to re-train in France in their French. They’re very particular when it comes to their French language being spoken properly, especially towards Paris.

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International Nurse Experience in the United Kingdom

travel nurse us to uk

© Heather Phillips, Valencia, CA, USA

by Heather Phillips.

I am a nurse from California, United States. I grew up in Los Angeles and went to nursing school in San Diego. I always knew that I wanted to live and work abroad for a period of my young adulthood. I chose to work in the UK for several reasons. The first time I visited London as a college student, I absolutely fell in love with this city.

Moving to England seemed like a good opportunity to gain experience in working in a different country and to work for a national healthcare system. Coming from the United States, this was not something I had the chance to do before. Lastly, from a practical standpoint the UK was a good fit as English is my first language and I therefore felt confident in my ability to provide care in their hospitals.

I imagined that from a nursing perspective, things would be quite similar to the way things are done in America. This was not as true as I thought it would be. I also expected that spending 6 months in the UK would be enough time to feel I had really had a full experience of living abroad. However, I found living in London to be quite enjoyable and extended my stay to nearly 3 years.

travel nurse us to uk

© Heather Phillips


The application and registrations process were quite lengthy and tedious at times. However, I felt I had a good guidance from my nursing recruiter throughout the process. If you are coming from a country in which you will be required to have visa sponsorship, going with a recruitment agency is easily the best option for you. They will guide you through every step of the way from getting to the UK, as well as getting settled once you arrive. The whole process took about one year from the time I contacted the nursing recruitment agency to the date I obtained my UK nursing registration.

The visa is not difficult to obtain, it is getting your NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) registration that will take the longest. If you are coming from outside the UK or EU (things may change with Brexit), you are required to first take the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). This can be done at any authorized testing center in your home country. The NMC requires a score of 7 or higher in all sections of the exam.

Once you have completed this exam you will have to a take a computerized exam that covers the NMC’s policies and some basic nursing theory. This too can be done in your home country at a delegated testing center. Once you have passed this theory exam, you will then have the green light to submit your application to the NMC. This includes providing ID verification, proof of your education, proof of your home nursing registration, a background check and a physical.

travel nurse us to uk

Once the NMC approves your application you become eligible to take the OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) which can only be done in England. Some prospective nurses choose to fly specifically to the UK to take this exam, fly home and wait for the results. Others like myself who live quite far from the UK, take the exam upon their arrival to the UK to live.

To give an idea of the timeline, I passed the OSCE on my first attempt and was awarded my UK nursing registration in a 5-days’ time. I started work roughly a week later. The OSCE can be quite difficult for those coming from outside the UK as the training is different in every country. However, with a decent amount of studying it is very feasible that you will pass on the first go. If, however, you do not pass, you can resit the exam.

Throughout the process of obtaining your UK nursing registration it is important to stay organized and remain patient. The wait from submitting my application to getting the approval to take the OSCE is what I found the most difficult. It was difficult because moving outside your home country requires quite a bit of planning and it was difficult not to know at what point to give notice of my resignation from work and when to let loved ones know that I would definitely be leaving. However, the NMC is currently changing their process of admitting international applicants to make it easier and quicker than it has been in the past. I have included the link to an article about this.

I originally worked for a travel nurse agency who helped me find a job in London. I was hired at St Thomas’ hospital in London for my first placement. I later went permanent with the hospital and they both sponsored and paid for my new visa. St Thomas’ hospital is a NHS (National Health System) trust. The location of the hospital is absolutely stunning. It sits right on the Thames River in front of the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye. I worked on a neonatal unit, which is the same type of unit I worked in at home in California.

My orientation was very short as I was originally brought in as temporary staff. I only had half of a day with a nurse educator and one full 12.5-hour shift shadowing one of the staff nurses. I did find it a bit difficult at first to acclimate to the unit. The main reason for this is the fact that many terms that we use in the United States for conditions, equipment and medications are different from those used in the UK. I was lucky enough that the hospital had quite a few nurses from North America and that one of them was kind enough to give me a “UK nursing dictionary for Americans” that she had created for herself when she first moved to England.

travel nurse us to uk

The hierarchy of the nurses was also quite different from what it is like in America. In America, we have floor nurses, charge nurses and nurse managers. However, in the UK they use a system of banding. A Band 5 is an entry level nurse. A Band 6 is an experienced nurse and likely to be in charge from time to time and a Band 7 is a “sister” and likely to be in charge every shift they work. There are pay increments with each banding. I was treated as a Band 5 nurse, however being temporary staff, my pay was that of a Band 6.

I worked 12.5-hour shifts, both days (07:30-20:00) and nights (19:30-08:00). Full time employment is 13 shifts in 4 weeks. On my unit we were able to request what we wanted our schedule to look like each month; this was a blessing as many units use temporary staff as fillers for the shifts they are short permanent staff. There were many weeks where I worked days and nights in the same week. I found this to be one of the most difficult aspects of the job.

I was allocated 2-3 patients a shift depending on the patients’ acuity and the number of nurses on duty. Staffing on my unit was under control most days, however there were quite a few days when we were short. From speaking to other nurses in the UK, being short staffed seems to be a common problem throughout the NHS. My duties as a nurse included completing full head to toe assessments, administering medications and blood products, provided basic cares and documenting. As temporary staff I was not offered continued training, however if an international nurse chose to go permanent and work for the hospital directly, they would be able to continue their training with things like a mentorship course or long line placement training.

The equipment in the hospital was a mix of old and new. To give a few examples, the machines used for patient respiratory support were up to date with new hospitals in the United States. However, gavage feeds were done by gravity as there were no feeding pumps. When I left the unit in late 2017, they were just transitioning from paper documentation to electronic charting.

Aside from securing a job there were many other important things to sort out in my move to the UK. As an American I was required to pay a health surcharge fee alongside my visa fee. This allowed to have the same national health insurance that UK residents have. However, it is important to mention that national health insurance does not include vision or dental coverage. The NHS does provide a pension plan for its employees. However, since I knew I would not be in the UK permanently, I chose to opt out.

To protect myself and my nursing license I obtained malpractice insurance by the Royal College of Nursing. I found the Royal College of Nursing to be a great resource during my time in the UK. They will not only help you should something go wrong, but also provide you with career support and educational materials. As with anything in life there are positives and negatives. The worst bit about my experience of working and living in the UK was dealing with the staffing agency I originally chose to go with. They are still around but are now operating on a much smaller scale.

They lost their ability to sponsor international nurses’ visas in December 2017. Luckily, I was able to extend my stay in the UK by replacing my sponsorship directly with St Thomas hospital. The Kate Cowhig Recruitment agency has been used by a few of my friends and they have all found them to be a great employer and resource! With that being said, do your research and consider going permanent with a hospital if you plan to stay in the UK beyond a short stay.

I have been back in California for a few months now and can confidently say that I do not regret any of my time spent in the UK. I have grown professionally and personally in ways I never imagined. I have created countless memories and meaningful new friendships. Because of those friendships, London has become a second home for me and somewhere I intend on visiting for many years to come.

Important questions and facts

• Which country are you coming from? Will you need visa sponsorship? Some countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia do not require sponsorship.

• How long do you plan to stay in the UK? You can apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency.

• All workers in the United Kingdom are entitled to 5.6 weeks of vacation time a year. What will you do with your time off? What are your travel goals? It is wise to save up some money before moving abroad to ensure you can do all you set out to!

• Pay within the NHS is based on your banding

• Private hospitals and clinics pay more than the NHS

Useful British Nursing Terms for North American Nurses

Important websites

NMC: Nursing & Midwifery Council;

Updates for NMC overseas applications NMC is working to streamline the application process for oversea applicants. Have a look to see how this could help you.

RCN : Royal College of Nursing

NHS : National Health Service

KCR : Kate Cowhig Recruitment, an agency that recruits nurses from around the world to work in the UK and Ireland. They will work with you to get you a job and a visa.

The Skimm : American daily news email. They cover important news topics around the world and relay it in a relatable and comical way.

If you have any questions, just write an e-mail .

Here  you can download the experience report as PDF file.

Information about  working abroad  as a medical student or doctor. Information about working in Great Britain .

Tip : More up to date educational events can be found online in the  Education Database »medicine & health« .

Dear Reader, We are happy to welcome you to our Going International Blog. Did you like this or would you like to inform us about something related to this topic? Just leave a comment in our comment field below, your e-mail address will not be published. We are looking forward to your feedback! Best Regards, The Going International Team!

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I love this piece of information. This is very nice. Thanks for posting.

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I am very impressed about your eexperience Overseas. I live in the US and am a nurse. I want to go there to work. I don’t know if there is any changes due to the Covid-19 in terms of the administration.

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Am really very impressed with this your post about a nurse’s experience in the uk. Am a nurse a well and from Ghana who wants to work in UK.I need Guidance

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What You Need to Know About Working As a Nurse in the UK (if You’re American)

what you need to know about working as a nurse in the UK

It’s also important to note that when referring to the “UK”, I’m strictly speaking about my experience in London.

This post was written by Melissa from Meliss Meets World

How to work as a nurse in the uk (if you’re an american trained nurse).

If you’re moving to London, don’t miss:   A Complete Guide to Visiting London

How Much Experience Do You Need to Work in the UK?

I personally think that it’s best to have at least a few years of experience under you belt before coming to work in the UK (although this is not a hard and fast rule).  It would also be beneficial to have previous travel nurse experience  so that you’re able to adapt and learn in a new environment fairly quickly without feeling intimidated.  But again, you do not need to be a travel nurse before coming to work in the UK.

You should be aware that one of the downsides to working in the UK, is being able to adjust your expectations around what nursing is like (compared to how you may have practiced as a nurse in the US).  There can be a big difference in practice between the two countries and I can’t decide if it’s harder having many years of experience in the US before coming over; or coming over without as much experience.

What Agency Should You Work With to Get a Job in the UK?

Visa requirements to work in the uk.

In regards to your visa, the main thing to know is that your WORK VISA and your UK NURSING LICENSE are two separate things.  And while understanding how to get your visa can be confusing, the most common way to obtain a visa is to obtain a “skilled worker visa”.  However, you can also obtain a “dependent” or “family” visa to work as a nurse in England.


Dependent/family visa.

The good news is, if there’s a company that you want to work with but they don’t agree to sponsor your visa you can still work with that company and file a dependent or family visa.  However, this is only if you have a partner that is moving with you and that partner is being sponsored.

You should also know that a dependent visa is more expensive than a skilled worker visa, because you will be charged around £500/year for healthcare; you must also pay for at least three years because that is the term of the visa.  Additionally, you will need to pay an added £1,000 for the application fee.  If you’re planning to start working for the NHS, some trusts will partially reimburse licensure and visa expenses, but this is all dependent on who is sponsoring your visa.

Working in the Public Sector vs Private Sector

Another thing to mention about working in the UK, is that there’s a big difference between private and public healthcare.  You might be familiar with the “NHS” (National Health Service), which is the public health system in England.  If you’re working with a company that sponsors your visa, you will almost certainly be working for the NHS.  Of course, working in the public sector has its pros and cons; but it’s usually easiest to move to the UK in order to work for the NHS and then switch to the private sector from there.  Additionally, many private healthcare jobs encourage nurses to have about six months of experience with the NHS.

If you want to work for a private healthcare company, (which is harder to do because of sponsorship reasons), then you’ll have many more job opportunities.  Working for a private company also allows you to work as a “bank” nurse, which is similar to being an “agency nurse” in the US.  Plus, you’ll earn quite a bit more money this way.

Obtaining Your Nursing License

Getting your nmc pin, what to expect once you’ve gotten your nursing license and you’re working as a nurse in the uk, what you can expect to be paid working as a nurse in england.

When talking about pay (in regards to working for the NHS, not private healthcare), you are paid based on your experience and these tiers are known as “bands”.  There are 9 bands – with band 1 being the least experienced and band 8b being the most experienced.  According to Medgen Healthcare Recruitment, the rankings are as follows:

  • Band 1 – Nursery Assistant
  • Band 2 – Healthcare Assistant
  • Band 3 – Emergency Care Assistant
  • Band 4 – Theatre Support Work
  • Band 5 – Newly Qualified Nurse
  • Band 6 – Nursing Specialist or Senior Nurse
  • Band 7 – Advanced Nurse/Nurse Practitioner
  • Band 8a – Modern Matron or Chief Nurse (advanced knowledge through study and practical experience over a wide range of work procedures and practices)
  • Band 8b –  Modern Matron or Chief Nurse (specialist knowledge covering more than one discipline acquired through extensive experience)

Starting out in the NHS as a band 5 level nurse (this means you’ve already passed your OSCE exam and you’re fully licensed as a nurse), you can expect to make about £32,000-£36,000/year.  However, before your OSCE exam, when you’re working as a nursing assistant, you will be at a band 4 pay grade which around £27,000/year.

Tip:  When you’re ready to sign your contract, make sure that you double check your salary amount.  Mine was wrong and needed to be fixed.  Also, once you’ve received your pin and your band is changed from 4 to 5, your pay change may not happen until months later, which should not be the case.

As I mentioned previously, another way to make more money is to work as a “bank nurse”, which is essentially an agency nurse.

If you’re an American nurse interested in working in the UK, I hope that this helps you get started.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!  Or, connect with Melissa on Instagram !

If you’re interested in pursuing international nursing, make sure to check out these posts:

Different Ways to Pursue International Nursing

Getting a Nursing Job in Saudi Arabia with Helen Ziegler

travel nurse us to uk

Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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Nurse essentials – 15+ things every nurse needs, 6 tips for sleeping during the day if you’re a night shift …, 10 lessons i learned after getting fired from my nursing job in saudi …, 5 tips for getting into nursing school, leave a reply cancel reply.

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The ultimate guide to road tripping the peloponnese in greece, everything you need to know about planning a trip to cambodia, everything you need to know about taking the train between paris and …, the best restaurants in riyadh, the best restaurants in paris, how to spend 2 days in hanoi, vietnam, disadvantages of being a travel nurse, a complete guide to visiting rome, 10+ gifts for nicu nurses, a complete guide to visiting london, the best cocktail bars in paris, 1 day phnom penh itinerary, 10 things to see & do in fargo, north dakota.


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  • International Travel Nursing

International Travel Nursing: What To Know Before Going Abroad

Where you can go, how to prepare, and what you can earn as an international travel nurse.

nurse examines children outdoors under palm tree

If you’re looking to mix your love of healthcare with your sense of adventure, consider a career as a travel nurse abroad. Along with roles across the United States, you may find opportunities for international travel nursing jobs in destinations such as Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

In this Article

About the Job | Benefits of Travel Nursing | Salary | Educational Requirements | Finding Work Overseas | Living Abroad

A career in overseas nursing can come with a lot of questions, from where you can go to how much money you can make. Use this guide as a starting point to get the answers you need to these questions and more.

How International Travel Nursing Works

As with travel nursing in the U.S., international nursing jobs are typically found through agencies within their home countries. You must first be licensed to work as a nurse in the U.S. Then you must meet any requirements in the country or countries in which you’d like to work. Each country will have its own guidelines, so it’s up to you to do the research.

Where Are Travel Nurses Needed Overseas?

You can find opportunities for travel nursing abroad in destinations across the world. Some of the areas with the highest need for nurses include Australia, New Zealand, China, and the Middle East. Areas prone to high rates of disease and natural disasters may also have a demand for rapid response nurses who can provide critical care in the aftermath of these events.

It’s important to note, however, that it’s not common to find an agency that will send you to a country where you don’t speak the language. You’ll be expected to have at least a working knowledge of the local language before you’ll be considered for a nursing role in a foreign country.

What Kind of Jobs Are Available?

Jobs for travel nurses are available in a wide variety of areas. You’ll find patient populations ranging from the very young to the very old, and any number of conditions or diseases. You may find yourself working in a range of medical settings, from low-income clinics to state-of-the-art facilities.

International travel nursing is common. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, “ one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained. ” This is largely due to nursing shortages around the world. While you might have a heard a lot about the nursing shortage in the United States, there are areas around the globe facing even greater shortages.

You may tailor your job more specifically by earning a specialty certification . In-demand specialties may include emergency room, medical-surgical, pediatric nursing , intensive care, anesthesia, and labor and delivery. You can gain these credentials through organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, though you may need to gain additional certification in the country where you work.

How Long Are the Assignments?

While travel nursing assignments in the U.S. typically last between eight and 26 weeks, nursing jobs abroad are often longer. You’ll likely work for at least a year in destinations like Australia and Europe, while it’s common to commit to at least two years while working in the Middle East.

If you’re curious about international travel nursing but not ready to make a long commitment, there are numerous volunteer opportunities. Non-profit and charity organizations all over the country have opportunities for nurses to volunteer overseas . These trips generally last anywhere from three to six weeks. While you won’t earn a salary for this work, it can be a great way to make a difference while seeing if international travel nursing is a good fit for you.

Who Handles Travel Arrangements and Expenses?

Within the U.S., travel arrangements and expenses for travel nurses are typically handled by your agency. However, every agency works differently, so it’s important to ask questions to understand exactly how they operate. Like in the U.S., an international travel nurse agency may handle setting up your travel and housing, or it may provide you with stipends to do so on your own.

Benefits of Nursing Abroad

nurse examines smiling child on sandy beach

Not only does international travel nursing allow you to experience other cultures in new parts of the world, it can expand your own skills as a nurse as well. You’ll likely be exposed to different types of medical procedures and learn how to better communicate with a variety of patients. You’ll get to expand your own abilities while also lending your talents to a likely underserved area.

After completing an assignment, you also have the option to take time off. Some agencies allow you to take as much time off between assignments as you choose, while others put a cap on the number of days you can take in a row. However, taking an extended amount of time off could affect any benefits you might have, so make sure you fully understand the way your agency works.

The nonprofit National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO) touts international travel nursing’s flexibility and potential for cultural enrichment as invaluable benefits. A travel healthcare professional gets to see many different places around the world while earning a significant income. Plus, the travel nurse gets to decide the distance and time frame of each assignment.

Perks of Working as an International Travel Nurse

  • Housing stipends
  • Covered travel expenses
  • Stipends for food and other living expenses
  • The opportunity to experience life in a new country
  • Exposure to new medical technique and ideas
  • The chance to expand your communication and language skills
  • The opportunity to experience diverse cultures

How Much Can International Travel Nurses Earn?

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Most countries around the world pay nurses significantly less than you’ll find for travel nursing jobs across the United States, although your pay will vary depending on your location and specialty . But even in places where compensation doesn’t reach U.S. salary levels, there are other benefits that can make overseas nursing a rewarding job in many ways. For example, some countries in need of travel nurses have a lower cost of living. You’ll be paying less for things like housing, food, taxes, and utilities, so your paycheck might go a lot further than it would in the U.S.

You might expect to earn more if you specialize in high-paying areas such as cardiac catheterization, oncology, anesthesia, and pediatric and neonatal intensive care.

Where Could I Make the Most Money?

There are some locations that are known to pay more than others. Outside the U.S. and Canada, Europe may be where you’re likely to make the highest salary . According to Word Atlas, you’ll make the most in these European countries:

  • The Netherlands

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn an impressive salary in other countries. For example, while your salary in the Middle East might look lower on paper than back home in America, you won’t pay taxes on your income there. If you also have basics like housing and food covered, you may be looking at high take-home pay.

How Do Compensation and Benefits Work Overseas?

Compensation and benefits work differently depending on your city, your country and your agency. The only way to know exactly how your package will break down is to ask the agency for which you work.

Usually, you’ll receive an hourly wage that might seem somewhat low, but your pay is supplemented with additional benefits. Most agencies provide furnished housing for the duration of your contract, along with stipends for meals and additional travel. Your agency might also offer medical, dental, and vision insurance, as well as paid time off, reimbursement for licensing, and end-of-assignment bonuses.

What Are the Educational Requirements for International Travel Nurses?

You’ll generally be able to find international assignments as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) , registered nurse (RN), or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), but it will depend on the location you’re hoping to work in. No matter what, your license will need to be in good standing and your degree will need to be from an accredited school. You’ll need to meet the requirements of licensing in the country you’re assigned to. Your first step will be to earn a degree and a nursing license.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Following successful completion of your program, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to apply for a nursing license in the U.S. The NCLEX has different exam versions for different nurse license levels. Both RNs and LPNs need to take and pass NCLEX in order to be licensed. APRNs will need to take the certification exam for their specific specialty. Your program can guide you to the exam you need.

After that, you’ll also need to secure any additional credentials that your travel country requires if you’re planning to pursue travel nursing positions abroad. This could mean simply taking a test, gaining certification, or completing an entirely new program. You might also need to take a test proving you can speak in the primary language of that country. Keep in mind that this also applies to English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Even if English is your native language, you’ll need to take the English language tests required of all international work visa applications.

You’ll then need to make sure you have a passport, a visa, a work permit, and any sponsorship that’s necessary. Each country will also have their own list of other documentation you need to present, such as your birth certificate, immunization records, and professional references. Plus, some countries will ask to see your transcripts to verify your education against their standards. The full process can sometimes take a year to complete and may also be expensive depending on additional requirements.

Finding Overseas Nursing Jobs

travel nurse us to uk

Travel nursing jobs are typically found through an agency. Different agencies work with different locations and specialties, so it’s recommended to work with multiple agencies to find an assignment that meets your needs. Some agencies already have contracts to place nurses in overseas roles. This can be really helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed about the testing, licensing, and other potential international travel requirements. Make sure you understand any possible drawbacks to working with the agency, such as the percentage of your pay that might go back to it.

Questions to Ask Your Agency

When researching agencies and contracts, ask questions such as:

  • What locations do you serve?
  • How is your pay package structured?
  • What do you provide in terms of health insurance?
  • Do you provide free housing or a housing stipend?
  • Do you offer paid time off?
  • Are there any signing incentives or end-of-assignment bonuses?
  • How much time can I take off between assignments?

Jobs Through the Department of Defense

There’s another option if you’re not comfortable finding international travel nursing jobs yourself or working with an agency. The United States Department of Defense has international jobs for nurses . You’ll still need to meet requirements to practice in the country you’re assigned to, but you’ll have a lot of guidance through the process. You’ll need to apply for an open job listing to start. If you’re selected, the Department of Defense will make sure you have everything you need to take on your overseas role. There aren’t always overseas jobs available, but if you’re interested in this route, it’s worth looking at available listings. You can set job alerts to be notified of new international postings.

Living Abroad as a Travel Nurse

person wearing mask sits alone in airport

Travel nursing abroad can be an incredibly exciting but also overwhelming experience. It can be tough to know exactly what to expect and being far away from family and friends can sometimes lead to feeling homesick.

If this is something you’re worried about, there are ways to make the transition easier. You might be able to bring along a significant other, but this will vary depending on your contract and housing situation. Another option is to buddy up with a friend who’s also a travel nurse. You can work with the same agencies and try to secure assignments in the same locations at the same time.

You might also be able to bring along a pet, but keep in mind that each country has its own rules for bringing in animals. You’ll likely need to get an import permit and have a health assessment performed by a vet. Pets may or may not need to be quarantined for a period of time upon arrival in the country.

Partnering with a fellow international travel nurse can help combat feelings of homesickness.

When packing to head abroad, keep things as simple as possible. Furniture and other household items will likely be provided by your agency, so often clothing and personal care items are all that you need.

When it’s time to start your assignment, don’t wait until the last minute to arrive. Give yourself time to settle into your apartment, get a rental car if needed, and get familiar with the city. Allow plenty of time to shop for any necessary items and figure out your daily commute.

It’s also a good idea to arrange a visit to the medical facility before your start date. Talk to your manager, get a tour of the unit, and ask any questions related to orientation or the day-to-day duties you’ll be tackling.

Pack light. Most agencies will provide furniture and other household items.

Once you start, you might have a day or two to familiarize yourself with the procedures and protocols of the unit, but you’re likely to be expected to jump right in. Take the initiative and ask questions whenever needed. If you have the experience and certifications to back up your skills, you should be able to walk in confident that you can work under pressure and with any patient.

Finally, international travel nursing is a great opportunity to learn the trade and explore the world, so take it all in.

travel nurse us to uk

Written and reported by:

Stephanie Behring

Contributing Writer

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Timeline: How I come to UK as a US based Nurse

Published Sep 19

  • by kishiinwonderland, BSN, RN Specializes in Cardiac med-surg.

I'm going to start my OSCE training officially next Monday, so I think it's probably a good time for me just to look back how far I go and write out a timeline here for future nurses who will come across the pond.

But before that I had to be honest. There was such a limited resource for us as in the States to go to England, most of them came for the opposite. The only "real" experience I could found was here the previous post.

I was already melancholy about leaving my home (for various reasons) and overwhelmed by application, finding a job, getting UK license...etc. at that time. Even though I never met you all, may not meet you all in the future as well, again really want to shout out a big thank you to anyone share their experiences. You guys were like the leading light in the dark. And I was saved and feeling stronger with those tiny sparkles.

Bit background about me:

I started as an international student here in the States, soon before graduate I found out that US government won't give nurses working visas (long story short, you can only get a work visa until the entry level in your field is bachelor's degree. And nursing is not. Soon before I left, our floor had 10+ travel nurses to come, lots of night we have only one staff nurse and he or she is still new, with rest of all the travel nurses. Sometimes there were lots of blocked beds.)

I'm not interested in obtaining a green card by marrying someone. That's when I decided to go to another English-speaking country. And finally, UK.  

I don't have much preparation before I started my application.

I registered my NMC account and uploaded all the requiring materials, waiting my Ohio BON to respond.

Next day NMC said they received reply from BON that I'm ready to take next step. Booked CBT exam the same day.

My plan was to go to Brit in August, it's kind of early so I did nothing that month.

Sent out CVs to agencies, had some research about NHS hospital. Within days I got respond. I got a pre-interview with the agency. They asked about my experience then gave me a petite math quiz. Passed.

Received more pre-interviews with several agencies. Each agency connects to a trust (a group of hospitals within the same system)

They asked my preferences, ICU& London since I'm looking forward to a big city, then gave me some interview slots.

Same week had two interviews on Microsoft team. Got offer letters the next. One of them are my togo with two months of accommodation, three years contract and fees and tickets fees covered. One thing I had to mention is despite years of experience you have, you'll start with a fresh band 5. Okay fine. I accepted the offer right away. 

Offer letter didn't update new nhs band 5 pay, so I had some argue with that, finally they realized with mistakes. Keep an eye on your pay.

Passed my CBT. It was one of the easiest nursing exams I have, prepared a bit but never the same as NCLEX. Though they just changed their guideline two years ago and there're few sample questions. I bought a book on amazon which helps a tiny bit. Then I had a 1000 questions bank. You should be fine with that, most of them are common sense. When I came out at that time the staff member told me I passed both. I was so shocked since the results came out so quick. Very straight forward.

Sent out bunch of materials:

NMC Status Screenshot

Police Certificate (home country)

Police Certificate (any other country you have lived/worked in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years) – Use FBI one since they'll ask you to have FBI one later.

Marriage Certificate (If you have!)

Nursing Degree Certificate

Professional Registration Certificate & Professional Registration License ID

Proof of Address

Vaccination Certificates / Covid Certificate – lots of blood tests but bearable

References for 3 years' worth of employment – kind of hard for me to ask my manager since I pretty new, decided to wait until May.

I made my mind and decided to talk to manager if they would provide my working visa here, but they said no. I told her about the plan. She said she's happy to write any references. I was sad but nothing I can do. Move on girl.

My agency didn't reply to me a lot this month which also makes me worried. She was out of office, them when she did come back, she said she'll look at my materials but never did.

It was June when she finally opened her inbox and said everything is cool, but you'll need an education reference as well because I was only a fresh nurse. The references had to cover three years of nursing experience which makes me very mad since it was summertime and my college closed last week. No one replied to my emails and my favorite professor retired. Finally I grabbed my undergraduate study in desperate and they said talk to the dean office. If you're also struggling with that try to search education reference on your edu web. My dean office got me back relatedly quick, for a week.

My agency told me that the girl I worked with recently left (which kind of making sense) and thank God! The new team is very efficient and helpful.

After I sent everything, they called my references to verify (a friend of mine, my manager and my school). Kinda surprised that they did call. My manager said "it's her new journey" after she said a lot of good things for me and the agency said "sorry to steal her from you.” Man, I cried hard. 

Everything finally cleared in the end of June. My deployment date is at the beginning of September. 

I was waiting for my COS until they said they won't send that until one and half month before because COS is only valid for a short period (which I forgot). They promised me to give me back in the mid of July which of course, not arrived on time. Bunch of back and forth. Finally got my COS July.31.

As per contract and COS, you'll work as a band four nurse, pass your OSCE then be a band 5 nurse. I resigned at that time, got so many warm hugs from my fellows. Went to VFS, they gave me a priority line and got my work visa. From February to August, finally. It was such a relieve for me. They booked my ticket the next day I sent my visa. I was worried again (yeah) bc four months after the offer letter I never talked to a hospital again, not a single email. I had all my communication through my agency. It seemed a bit fishy, or my future employer trust my agency a lot. Either way I had no choice now!

My agency picked me up at the airport then I arrived at my accommodation. They were very nice and helpful. Got an oyster card then I went to explore the city right away. London appears new to me, but familiar. When I went to a walk around the national gallery, with Shake Shack and M&M around, I was like: where I am, back home? OSCE team came to us the next day. We'll have two months of training not clinical wise then took the OSCE in October. And my official OSCE training starts on Monday. It's been a long long journey and I was kinda surprised that I'm here. I've been through a lot. Every blinks make me think about my past. I don't know where I'm gonna face but I have to go.

Keep y'all posted! Meanwhile feel free to ask me anything!

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