International Nursing – what you need to know

The profession of nursing has always been in demand, no matter which country you live.  This then makes it a very versatile career for those who wish to utilise their skills and wisdom and incorporate it with travel. So, if you are one of the 390,000 registered nurses and midwives in Australia (as of June 2017) and are contemplating a working life abroad, here is what you need to know.

Where to go?

The options are many when it comes to deciding where you might want to live and work internationally as a nurse. Some of the most popular choices remain the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa and of course, New Zealand.  You’ll need to make contact with relevant registration authority in your country of choice to find out the necessary requirements of being permitted to work abroad. These will include:

Legal Requirements – short term working

The Working Holiday Maker programme has been established in Australia to encourage young adults aged 18-30 years (with no dependent children and who meet eligible health requirements) to undertake short term work or study in partner countries. Some of these include:

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom

You’ll need to hold an Australian passport, a return ticket (or sufficient funds for a return or onward fare) as well as proof of enough funds to cover the first part of your working holiday.

Please also be aware some counties, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or Portugal will require more than just a working visa.  For example, Malaysia demands a police check and certificate of good health and a letter from the Australian Government to support your application for work.

Legal Requirements – long term working

For some nurses, the lure of international work and travel will mean 12 months is not long enough. This is when a more permanent type of work visa will be required, to allow for more long-term employment.

The USA is always a popular choice, however it’s also a more complex process for those wanting to work as an international nurse. A registered sponsoring organisation will be needed (check out the US Department of State website for sponsors) and in applying for a work visa, the nurse must have a recognised nursing diploma from Australia, a RN license and a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state of intended employment, or a certification issued by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or evidence that she has passed the NCLEX-RN licensing examination.

Good news for those wanting to work and live in New Zealand as a nurse. The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition scheme for health professionals allows for Australians to fast-track the registration and recruitment process. For other countries, such as the UK, you’ll need to discuss sponsorship for continuing your work with your employer. This certificate of sponsorship (COS) is sometimes funded by your future employer.

Educational Requirements

It goes without saying you won’t be able to work as a nurse abroad without the necessary educational requirements. Nurses will need to have completed a Bachelor Degree in Nursing and in some cases, particular countries will request that you also undertake extra eligibility tests. For example, Japan, who recently passed a new law allowing for foreign health workers to be employed in their country, require applicants to pass the national exam for care workers. It is not enough to simply have practiced nursing in Australia to qualify for work under the Japan Medical Services Visa.

Canada is another popular choice for registered nurses to live and work. They will be required to have their current Australian education credentials assessed to ascertain if they are equivalent to nursing education programs in Canada. Additional criteria such as work experience, good character, language proficiency, screening for criminal history will also be undertaken when applying for work as a nurse in Canada.

Medical Requirements

Some countries you might be looking at in which to live and work abroad as a nurse will require you to get immunised. This acts as a safeguard against the possibility of being exposed to certain diseases you might encounter in these countries.

This is an important step in your planning process and you should visit your doctor at least 6 weeks before you depart Australia to ensure the best protection from infections whilst travelling. And even if you have been vaccinated in the past against particular health risks, new strains can emerge which you’ll need to manage, or you will at least need a booster shot.

Some of the possible vaccinations you would be required to get include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Tuberculosis

Nursing agencies, like Best Practice Nursing, will also be able to provide you with guidance should you have more questions about wanting to work as an international nurse.

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