Travel Nursing – Working as a Nurse in the UK
One of the best things about being a nurse is the flexibility and freedom that the career allows. For many, a key draw in this versatile profession is the opportunity to travel. Whether you’ve always dreamed of travelling the world, or simply yearn for the challenge of working in a different country, travel nursing offers the opportunity to do just that.
In fact, now is one of the best times to get into travel nursing. Many countries like the UK are facing shortages in their healthcare sectors, with their domestic workforce not filling all of the roles required.
But what exactly does travel nursing entail, and how can you get into travel nursing in the UK?
What is travel nursing?
Travel nursing is simply working as a nurse in a foreign country. This may comprise short-term placements in various countries between travel, or a long-term position where you really become immersed in the area you’re working in. Both the NHS and private employers seek nursing professionals from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and further afield to fill their vacancies.
Why should you consider it?
The shortage of healthcare professionals in the UK means that there may be more opportunities to get into your chosen nursing specialism here than in your home country. In 2017, only one in seven NHS posts were filled. Now is the perfect time to look into working here, where your experience and enthusiasm will make you a competitive applicant. In fact, over 15,000 people travel to the UK to work as nurse every year.
Work while travelling
The clear reason to become a travel nurse is to see the world. In most other professions, individuals are forced to choose between travelling and furthering their career. Having to take long breaks from working can compromise a nurse’s employability when they return home. With travel nursing, you are able to travel the world whilst working.
Working continuously in a country such as the UK allows nurses to experience life here first-hand. It gives nurses the opportunity to experience new cultures without worrying about money, and you will also meet many new friends along the way.
Boosting career prospects
Travel nursing is a great choice for nurses looking to boost their careers in the long term. Adding travel nursing to your resume demonstrates a proactive personality, and shows a willingness to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself in different areas of the healthcare profession. Working abroad will also improve your communication skills, enabling you to connect more effectively with patients from different cultures and walks of life.
Competitive pay rates
Of course, it helps that travel nursing is very well paid – often much higher than domestic jobs. Newly-registered travel nurses in the UK make around £17,000 annually, while those in the most senior positions can expect to take home roughly £30,000 per year. You will generally earn more than this working in private hospitals and healthcare facilities, and if you decide to take a role in London, you will receive a living allowance of up to £4,000 per year. Not only will you be able to fund an exciting period of travel in the UK, but you may also be able to save up funds for future trips or for life back home.
Another bonus of travel nursing are the contract perks. This will depend on where you work, which role you choose and which institution you work for. Many short-term contracts provide housing, for example, whereas some employers offer a housing stipend. However, this varies between contracts, so you should double check on the finer details of a post before signing up.
Requirements for UK travel nursing
Before you apply for a travel nursing job in the UK, there are various requirements you must be aware of.
The first and most obvious pre-requisite of becoming a travel nurse is to make sure you have the correct qualifications. You must be a registered nurse and have a formal qualification registered in your home country.
You must have completed a three-year training course in general nursing. Half of this course must be clinical or practical training in direct contact with patients and a third must be theoretical. You must also have at least 12 months of post-registration experience working as a nurse.
If you are applying from outside of the European Economic Area, your training will need to be assessed before you can join the register of UK travel nurses. If your qualifications meet the NMC’s standards you can then complete their Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP). This whole process can take up to six months, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to apply.
As with any role abroad, you must have a valid work permit or visa status. If you choose to work on a working holiday visa, you will only be able to undertake ad hoc shifts and rota work. With a work permit you will need to be sponsored by a private clinic, hospital or company, which usually commits you to working with that employer for at least one year.
If you come from a country outside the EU, you will be expected to take an English language test to ensure you will be able to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam is compulsory, but should be a relatively easy step for those who are fluent. You can take the exam at home. For more information on this, visit the British Council website or call one of our travel nursing specialists on 020 3954 1917.
Before you sign up to become a travel nurse, it is important to be prepared. A key part of this is financial preparation. One aspect to consider is taxes. You may be expected to pay taxes in the UK and in your home country, so to avoid this double-taxation, remember to consult an accountant or financial advisor before you leave.
How to become a travel nurse
The easiest way to become a travel nurse is to sign up to a specialist nursing agency. A recruitment agency will connect your specific skills with the best opportunities that match your needs, from areas of work to locations and salaries.
A recruitment agency will also help you with the paperwork documenting your education and work experience, and help you get the immunisations and tests you need to be healthy and protected while working in the UK. They will also cover all the legal aspects, helping with visas and work permits, and may even be able to assist you when it comes to finding accommodation.