International Nurses: Transitioning from HCA to a Registered General Nurse.

Sep 23, 2021.

Are you an International Nurse working as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) who wants to move to becoming a Registered General Nurse?

Working as a HCA is a great way to get relevant experience and see what the job really involves, but if you’re ready to take the next step in your career, take a look at our guide on what you need to do to become a fully-fledged Registered General Nurse.

Step 1: Obtain your NMC Registration & Pin

To successfully relocate to the UK and join the NHS, you must have full NMC Registration. The first step is to:

  1. Evidence your English language skills

You have three options when it comes to deciding how to evidence your English language skills…

  1. Examinations: IELTS – International English language testing system / OET – Occupational English language testing system
  2. A nursing/midwifery qualification that was taught in English
  3. Recent practice in an English speaking country

If you’d like to find out further information on how to evidence your English language skills, our blog: The 3 Ways to Evidence Your English Language Skills to the NMC is packed with advice and details on what you need to do.

Step 2: Evidence your specialist knowledge and skills via the NMC’S CBT exam

As part of your registration to become a Registered General Nurse, your competency will be evidenced via the NMC’s computer-based-test (CBT) of theoretical, practice-based knowledge. The test format consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and can be taken in test centres around the world.

The CBT exam will test you on your professional values, communication and interpersonal skills, nursing practice and decision making, leadership management and team working.

For further information, our blog post FAQs on the NMC’s CBT Exam is filled with useful information.

Step 3: Begin the job search, secure the job, relocate to the UK and join the NHS as a HCA

Once you’ve completed the above steps, the exciting part can begin – the NHS job hunt. To maximise your chances of finding the right role for you, it is worth considering using a medical recruitment agency such as ID Medical for valuable additional support and advice. Alongside securing the ideal NHS job and sourcing the best rates of pay, we have a dedicated international recruitment team who can help with everything from organising flights, finding the perfect accommodation for you and your family, guidance on living in the UK and any ongoing pastoral support you may need.

At this point, when you join the NHS – you’ll be joining as a Healthcare Assistant (also known as a HCA).

What is a Healthcare Assistant?

A Healthcare Assistant’s primary role within a hospital or allied healthcare setting is to make sure that the patient experience is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Your standard working week will be around 37.5 hours and may include a mix of shifts, early starts, evenings and weekends. As a Healthcare Assistant, you’ll be paid on the Agenda for Change pay system and typically, HCAs start at Band 2.

Your work as a HCA will vary depending on where you’re based. For example, you may:

  • Wash and dress patients
  • Move patients around
  • Make beds
  • Make patients feel comfortable
  • Monitor patients’ conditions by temperatures, pulse, respirations and weight
  • Serve meals and help feed patients

Alternatively, if you’re based in a health centre or GP surgery, you may:

  • Sterilise equipment
  • Do health checks
  • Restock consulting rooms
  • Process lab samples
  • Take blood samples

Step 4: Pass your OSCE

The next step to move on to being a Registered Nurse from a HCA is to pass your practical examination called the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The exam involves acting out scenarios that you’re likely to experience during care. You’ll book the OSCE when you arrive in the UK and it can be taken at the following test centres:

  • Oxford Brookes University
  • University of Northampton
  • Ulster University

Please note that, following the Covid-19 pandemic, sitting exams at in-house centres could change/be put on hold, depending on the situation. For updates and further information, please check the OSCE Updates page on the NMC website.

You should also note that depending on what relocation package your recruitment consultant can organise with your NHS trust – they may pay or reimburse the price of the OSCE (£794) and other costs associated with your NMC registration and relocation to the UK.

Becoming a Registered General Nurse

Once you’ve successfully passed your OSCE exam, you’ll then become a registered General Nurse (Band 5) paid on the Agenda for Change pays system. Being a nurse within the NHS offers plenty of benefits from a competitive salary, excellent career progression, job security to a flexible schedule. For example, you could venture deeper into If Specialist Nursing. If you want to know more about what this career pathway looks like, our blog: Everything you need to know about becoming an NHS Specialist Nurse is a useful read.

Depending on what ward you’re based in, your duties and responsibilities will include:

  • Assisting doctors with physical examinations and care plans
  • Performing an initial assessment of a patient’s condition
  • Informing patients and their relatives of what’s happening
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Taking patients’ temperatures and checking their blood pressure and pulse rates
  • Administering medication and injections
  • Taking blood samples
  • Setting up drips and blood transfusions
  • Using different medical equipment
  • Checking on the progress of a patient’s progress
  • Teaching student Nurses

The process of obtaining your NMC Registration is an exciting yet challenging one, and we’re on hand with advice, guidance and support when it comes to securing an NHS role – if you would like to know more about our service, register your details and we’ll get right back to you.