The UKRN process (part 2 of 3)

If you are a Philippine-registered nurse and would like to work in the UK, there are steps that you need to take in order for you to get your NMC PIN and gain UK registration. First is to get the appropriate work experience, and second is to pass an English proficiency exam. I wrote about my experiences in taking the IELTS for UKVI on a previous post, which you can read here.

Alright, so you’ve taken the IELTS/OET, and met the score requirements. What comes next? Well, if you don’t have an agency yet, this would be the perfect time to ‘shop’ for one. Check out all of the perks that they offer, and then choose the best one for you. Prior to taking the IELTS for UKVI, I was already in contact with two agencies—one was recruiting for a hospital in Portsmouth, which is in the far southern coast of England, and the other one was hiring for Central London. After a careful consideration of my options, I went for the latter. Agencies usually take into account not only the length, but also the type of work experiences of the applicants. At the time, they were hiring nurses with backgrounds in emergency, intensive care, operating room, and medical-surgical nursing. This requirement changes from time to time, though, seeing as how UK hospitals hire international nurses based on where they’re currently lacking in staff.

For obvious reasons, agencies prefer qualified applicants who have either already taken the mandatory English tests, or booked to take it soon. If you didn’t meet the minimum ratings on the first try, don’t fret; you’re not the only one. As I’ve mentioned on part 1 of “The UKRN process,” many have failed before, but you can always try again. I’ve heard that the record number of tries in the IELTS exam for my agency was 14. Yep, FOURTEEN. So if you could just imagine if that person quit trying after the thirteenth try…

…back to the matter at hand—right after I was able to access my IELTS results online, I contacted my chosen agency to let them know of my scores. Afterwards, I went through my current employer’s hiring process—the drug calculation test, initial (panel) interview, then another panel interview which is more of a return demonstration of common nursing practices (I will explain about this further in part 3)—before they gave me the best news ever: I was hired.

Securing an employer is a very important step in the process—your employer will sponsor your Tier 2 Work Visa, guide you with the forthcoming exams that you need to take, as well as help you with your initial adjustment to life in the UK. So, after I was guaranteed an employer, I created an online account with the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) under International Registration, where my agency paid for my application under adult (general) nursing (£140) and then I chose my schedule for taking the CBT (£90). By the way, here in the UK, nursing has four different fields of practice: Adult (general), children’s, learning disabilities, and mental health nursing. In order for you to work with a certain group of patients, you need to have the correct registration (i.e., you’re not allowed to work in a paediatric ward if you’re not licensed under children’s nursing, etc.). You can be registered under more than one field, but that would also mean that you have more than one registration to renew, pay, and revalidate for—sooooo, too costly and complicated (I found out about this because after I got my PIN, I e-mailed the NMC to inquire how I can also get a mental health nursing registration :D).


The Computer-Based Test (CBT) is the NMC’s first test of competence. The second one is the OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination)—but more about that later. The CBT consists of 120 multiple choice questions, and you have up to four hours to answer them all. The complete guide can be found here.

In order to get a decision letter (most employers require this before they can grant sponsorship to come to the UK) from the NMC, you need to pass the CBT first. To be honest, four hours is waaaay more than enough time for you to answer all 120 questions—most of the people I know who have taken it, me included, barely had to use half of the allotted time. It sounds easy enough, but I would highly suggest that you do not take it lightly (I didn’t) because you can only take the CBT up to three times; after which, your application will automatically be rendered as void.

After procrastinating a little and choosing a satisfactorily lengthy review period for my CBT, I had it scheduled in December—just before Christmas. For the CBT, my preparation consisted of three things: reading NMC materials, reading tips from blogs, and panicking (LOL). I made sure that I read the Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (the entire book, and I’m not even kidding), the NMC Code, NICE guidelines (all of these may be found online), as well as practice questions sent by my agency. I’ve read that other people found the exam pretty easy, and that there were no complicated pathophysiology and lab results questions, yada yada… but I had this weird feeling about it, so I didn’t take their advice. Having taken the CBT, my advice is that you shouldn’t believe them either.

Now, due to rules that I agreed to prior to sitting the CBT, I’m afraid I cannot give anything specific in terms of questions that came up during my exam; however, I believe that it is perfectly safe for me to tell you this: Read and re-read THE CODE. Know it by heart. I really can’t put any more emphasis to this—there are ‘critical’ questions during the CBT, and these are the questions that you NEED to answer correctly, or else you’d automatically fail. It will not indicate which questions are critical, so it’s kinda like the ‘Minesweeper,’ if you’re familiar with that game. Questions related to patient and public safety, as well as The Code are said to be a part of this set. In order to pass the CBT, you need to answer the critical questions correctly, and get at least 60% of all the answers right.

As I’ve mentioned before, I read the Royal Marsden Manual, since it’s the basis of nursing procedures in the UK. What I didn’t realize is that it would’ve been of more help to me during the OSCE, not the CBT. But still, it did help a lot since many of the questions I encountered were about nursing practice. There were a lot of questions similar to those NCLEX practice questions that they threw our way during our review for the local board exams as well, so having good recall would certainly help. I did get a pathophysiology question, a rather complicated one, and I can’t forget about it because it was about a case that we presented during college LOL so lucky me! I also reviewed about lab normal values even though some people said it wasn’t gonna come up.. well, my hunches were correct, because it did for me.

Within 48 hours after the exam, the NMC will be sending you an email to inform you whether you passed or failed. I took the CBT at a Pearson VUE center in Makati, and having read that others got their results right away, I literally ran back to the hotel after finishing and anxiously checked my email every five minutes or so. Sure enough, within the next hour after I took the exam, I received an email congratulating me for passing the first test of competence. Yay!

Needless to say, what followed was one of the most memorable Christmases ever—I’ve made my family proud, and I was proud, though a bit ambivalent. What I didn’t realize was that it was probably the last Christmas I’d be spending in the Philippines. UK hospitals don’t usually allow paid annual leaves to be scheduled during the holiday season, adding to the fact that plane ticket prices are sky high during then, so going home for Christmas and New Year celebrations would be an impossible feat. If you get homesick easily (can’t blame you, really), then that’s something you should seriously consider as well. Then again, it’s fairly easy to bring your family to the UK once you’re settled, so if you’re still bent on that UKRN dream, then go forth and don’t let my laments stop you. After all, your life is a ship, and you’re the captain. Ganbatte kudasai!

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