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What happens if you fail the OSCE?

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination or OSCE is the final qualifying test of competence required by the NMC for an overseas nurse to become a registered nurse here in the UK. Its most current version (2021) requires 10 stations where a candidate nurse must demonstrate their skills and knowledge while being observed. This process is very similar to Filipino nurses’ return demonstration tests back in the Philippines, in comparison to the UK's OSCE candidate nurses are required to verbalise every step demonstrated during the examination. The outgoing version of OSCE (Legacy OSCE), having just 6 stations is expected by the NMC to run over only until the 31st of July 2022. For nurses from overseas, the OSCE is the single most important hurdle they must overcome to jump start their nursing journey once they arrive here in the UK.

The Filipino nurses community online has shared many stories of success in taking the OSCE. There are also many content about how to pass the OSCE and tips on how to ace it. However hardly anyone talks about is What happens if one fails the OSCE?

The OSCE, based on its marking criteria, will only give either a pass or fail result. There is no numerical value or grading system that might be reminiscent of the Philippine Nursing Licensure Exam.

The results of the OSCE are emailed to the candidate within a few days after taking the exam.

Pass. A result of pass is definitely a positive result and would lead to subsequent registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the UK. Congratulations! As an overseas nurse, you are now entitled not only to a qualified nurse’s salary but your responsibility has also now increased. In the NHS, this usually means you now reach Band 5. There is an annual fee for the license and registration that should be paid otherwise risk losing the right to practice as a nurse. This registration moreover, must be revalidated every 3 years or else risk being suspended or worse losing your licence to practise as a qualified nurse in the UK.

Fail? Failing the OSCE is not as straight forward as passing it.

There is a partial fail, where in a candidate may have missed out on minor details during the examination that warranted a fail only on that particular section or station. The resit of the OSCE means that the candidate will only retake the same station with the same situation and the same details as when the candidate first took it. And so, a partial fail would mean the candidate would only have to retake the same station where he or she failed. With regards to payment for the resit, it would be in a reduced rate.

A complete fail would mean that the candidate must resit the whole OSCE. Meaning no ifs and buts, the candidate would again retake the full test and re-do all the stations. And this would incur the full cost of the test.

I spoke with few full fledged Filipino UK nurses who had to do a resit of their OSCE. All of them were from the NHS and they all said that they were supported well by their trusts even though they had to retake their OSCE again. This meant that their fees were all paid and they were given extra training and study time to ensure success on their 2nd attempt. One of the nurses I spoke to unfortunately failed the OSCE more than twice. The nurse told me that unfortunately the support from the NHS trust was not extended to their 3rd attempt of OSCE. According to the other nurses, their own respective trusts made it specifically clear to them that they had to pass their 2nd attempt otherwise the trust would not pursue their employment process. This means they would be endorsed to the Home Office for Curtailment. Curtailment is a notification from the Home Office that your right to remain in the UK has been cancelled. This is normally issued as a letter via post and is sent within 60 days. And so for an overseas nurse issued with a curtailment order, it means they have to go back their origin country.

How do we avoid failing the OSCE?

Here are top tips on how to pass the OSCE.

  • Practice, practice and practice. After all practice makes perfect. And all nurses we interviewed agreed on this.

  • Be aware of your time and use it wisely. Time is essential on the OSCE itself as each station is time bound, and so when you practice make sure to set your timings right.

  • Maximise learning opportunities. Here in our community, we offer a free introduction to OSCE webinar for Filipino nurses. Check out this link for more details.

  • Read the marking criteria. This is where you compare your flow and make sure you tick all the boxes. Check the NMC Marking Criteria for the OSCE, this would be your best reference on what is required for you on each station.

  • This is not new for you. If you are unsettled, remember your student days performing the return demonstration for your clinical instructor. And so this is not new for you and you can do it again. Right before the test, calm down and do some deep breathing exercises. If you are already agitated avoid too much caffeine!

  • Focus on the task at hand but allow yourself to settle. The stress of preparing for the OSCE can be so great that you might not even get the chance to acclimatise yourself to your new surroundings. It is a new country for you and so you also need to learn about living in it. We do monthly webinar on Top tips on How to Live and Work in the UK for Filipino Nurses and Carers. Check out our events page for more details.

Becoming a registered UK Nurse is a dream of many nurses from overseas, especially the Filipino Nurse. OSCE is the last qualifying test to be fully registered as a UK nurse. One last hurdle! and you're close to the fulfilment of your dreams. Although this examination might be familiar with Filipino nurses, enough preparation is essential to ensure a pass score. Remember that the OSCE is the final hurdle for you to become a registered UK Nurse, and so prepare well and give it your best.

With heartfelt thanks to Nurses M, E, L, and M for their invaluable contribution

About the writer: George is a Nurse in the UK for over 12 years and is one of the co-founders of the Filipino UK Nurses Community. You can also find him on YouTube as Manong George

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