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How the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) supports Internationally Educated Nurses living in or considering coming to the UK

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) understands the enormous contribution internationally educated nursing staff (IENs) make to health and social care, and the particular challenges they face before and while they are working in the UK. With over half a million members, the RCN is the world’s largest nursing trade union and professional body.

A trade union is an organization of workers formed to protect and improve their working conditions. Trade unions negotiate fair pay, and decent working conditions and provide representation to support their members, ensuring fair treatment by employers.

Sometimes IENs are hesitant to join because of their experience of trade unions in other countries. Rest assured, the decision to join a UK trade union is yours and yours alone - your employer must not try to stop you.

The RCN knows that there are many challenges and difficulties specific to overseas nursing professionals and works hard to support IENs through professional development, workplace support, legal advice, career guidance, and member support services. The RCN has developed resources, specifically for IENs, to support the transition to life in the UK and to help IENs progress professionally in the UK.

Not a member? You can still access:


Coming to the UK can be challenging, with a lot of things to consider before moving. The RCN has developed a guide for IENs which covers all the essentials, including:

  • Employment contracts in the UK

  • Work experience and examinations

  • Bringing your family with you

  • The UK health system and NMC


If you were raised and educated in a different country, you may find the commonly used expressions in the UK to be an additional obstacle when assessing a patient’s health and well-being. For example, ‘feeling under the weather’ is a common phrase that means ‘feeling unwell’. Taken literally, it means something completely different.

The RCN has created a guide which provides some common English phrases and their meanings. The aim of this guide is to help you feel more confident when having important conversations with the people you care for.

Attend RCN Live events

Throughout 2023 and 2024, the RCN ran a series of recorded live events aimed at assisting IENs with some of the challenges they face, guiding areas such as:

·        The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

·        Exams and testing requirements

·        Career progression and professional development

·        Terms and conditions of employment within independent health and social care

·        Immigration and personal matters

·        Arriving and settling in the UK.


As the number of IENS coming to work in the UK continues to rise, this series of short films highlights some of the unique stories from our IEN members as they reflect on their journey to, and experience of living in the UK.


3. Join the RCN today and get access to:

With RCN membership, you have access to free, confidential advice, representation, and support on a range of issues that affect you at home and at work. Members can benefit from:

·        Careers service – Including CV writing support, interview preparation, and career planning.

·        Counselling – Support with personal or work-related issues.

·        Financial well-being – Advice, support, and resources to help you feel more in control of your finances.

·        Immigration services – Online advice and resources, alongside an experienced team of immigration solicitors.

·        Peer support – A network of members with lived experiences of disability and/or neurodiversity.

·        Welfare service – Including support and advice on benefits, tax credits, debt and housing.


As an RCN member, you have access to Europe’s largest nursing library resource to help boost your professional development. You’ll have online, 24-hour access to:

• 1,000s of eBooks and full-text eJournals

• A wide range of nursing and healthcare databases

• A variety of subject guides

Members receive bookable training and full access to our literature search service, providing the best evidence for your practice, an interview, or research.

RCN libraries are located in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London, with study spaces and computers available for members.


Join our community of over half a million nurses, midwives, nursing support workers (including health care assistants, assistant practitioners, nursing associates, trainee nursing associates), and nursing students. As the world’s largest nursing trade union and professional body, we’re here by your side at every step of your nursing journey.



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