Here we take a look at what international nurses need in order to demonstrate they can communicate effectively in a UK healthcare environment and satisfy the rules of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Registering with the NMC
Any UK nurse that is in current practice needs to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. For international nurses whose first language isn’t english, that process includes demonstrating the necessary standard of communication. This can be done by providing the following evidence:
- The NMC accepts successful completion of an english language test such as the IELTS or OET (see below).
- You will also be accepted if you are a pre-registration nurse who undertook their training and successfully achieved their qualifications in a course that was taught in english.
- If you have practised nursing in an english speaking country for at least one year you will also qualify for registration.
Competency in english means you should include four components: writing, listening, reading and speaking.
What Are IELTS and OET?
The International English Language Testing Scheme or IELTS requires you to achieve a set score for the four components of communication.
- First, you need to achieve an overall score of 7.
- Second, you need a score of 7 in the listening, reading, and speaking sections but can pass with a 6.5 in writing as long as your overall score is still 7.
There are IELTS testing centres in over 140 countries around the world, including the UK. Check here to find the one nearest you.
The Occupational English Test or OET assesses language communication skills for nursing and other healthcare professionals. Those taking the test need to achieve a minimum of B in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The OET is less prevalent around the world compared to the IELTS. There are around 130 testing venues in 40 different countries. Find out more here.
For both tests, there is the opportunity to combine results if you take more than one sitting. You can find out more details here.
Why is an English Qualification Necessary?
Nurses and other healthcare professionals provide an important service in the UK and individuals are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the people in their care. This also means you need to be able to communicate effectively. It’s also a prerequisite of being accepted onto the NMC register which is a requirement for all nursing and midwifery staff who are in current practice.
Passing an english exam or meeting any of the other requirements of the NMC is not the end of things for a nurse in the UK. It’s important to make sure that your level of english is suitable for operating in this country. If the NMC receive concerns that your communication is not up to standard, even though you may have passed the OET or IELTS, they may decide to review your fitness to practice which could include removing your registration.
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