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Overseas nurses: my tips to secure a successful nursing career in the UK

Nurse Sojan Varghese recounts his journey from Dubai to London

Nurse Sojan Varghese recounts his career journey from Dubai to train and work in London earlier this year

Before joining the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, I was based in Dubai where I worked on the medical and surgical unit – although I am originally from India. I completed my Nursing and Midwifery Council UK (NMC) registration and the International English Language Testing System qualification in 2019, and initially planned to move to the UK in March 2020.

Nurse Sojan Varghese recounts his career journey from Dubai to train and work in London earlier this year

Nurse Sojan Varghese's career journey took him from Dubai to train and work in London
Picture: iStock

Before joining the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, I was based in Dubai where I worked on the medical and surgical unit – although I am originally from India. I completed my Nursing and Midwifery Council UK (NMC) registration and the International English Language Testing System qualification in 2019, and initially planned to move to the UK in March 2020.

I was attracted by the good career prospects – with many NHS trusts sponsoring higher studies – as well as the respect and recognition you get for the job here, and the UK’s values and living conditions. However, around this time, COVID-19 had started to spread. With cases in Dubai, I decided to stay and support the country that had employed and helped me and my family for more than seven years.

When the crisis stabilised slightly in October 2020, I started applying for jobs in the UK. I chose to come to the Royal Marsden because it had some of the highest ratings from patients and staff on review websites. I then faced further challenges as, following government instructions, my HR department froze resignations from nurses due to the pandemic. Once these restrictions were lifted in December 2020, I had to negotiate timings due to travel restrictions.

‘I would encourage nurses considering moving to the UK to go for it – I’m glad I took the leap’

The Royal Marsden originally asked me to join in April 2021, but I requested this to be brought forward to January. Luckily, this was accommodated, as the UK and United Arab Emirates started to impose travel restrictions just one week after I arrived on 27 January.

Hospital arranged accommodation and provided groceries and a SIM card during self-isolation period

Arriving in the UK was a happy moment, though adjusting to the climate was a major challenge – the freezing cold weather was new to me. Moving in the middle of the pandemic was also unnerving, so the self-isolation period was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to adjust to the climate and rest following my move.

The hospital’s HR team made it easy for me to come over to the UK. They picked me up from the airport and arranged my accommodation. For my self-isolation period, they also provided groceries and a SIM card so I could call my family. They were always checking to see if I needed anything and were helpful and caring.

I had a full orientation from the Royal Marsden’s nurse educators to support my transition into the hospital and the NHS. New international nurses shadow staff nurses on the wards until they complete the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). This is a practical assessment as part of the NMC’s test of competence to join the register. The other part of this a computer-based test or CBT.

Nursing in the UK has been an empowering experience

I was working on Burdett Coutts, a male ward so I had contact with patients and got to know the routine.

Every Monday we had the OSCE ‘boot camp’ with other staff preparing for the exam, to discuss what we had learned and practise together. I felt well-prepared when I took the exam in March and passed with no problems. Since then, the Royal Marsden has offered me the chance to work in the critical care unit with full induction and training, which has been a great opportunity to learn new skills.

Compared with my previous experiences, nursing in the UK has been empowering. In Dubai and India, nurses are completely dependent on doctors and are not consulted about their patients’ treatment – unlike here where nurses play a major role. For example, doctors in the UK always discuss treatment plans for patients with nurses and consider their input. Nurses also have more agency and can make decisions regarding medications or procedures, depending on their training and the patient’s condition.

I would encourage nurses considering moving to the UK to go for it – I’m glad I took the leap.

Tips for overseas nurses moving to the UK

Refer to the Mentor Merlin online education resource when applying for the CBT exam, as the website offers study support, including mock tests

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