US vs UK Nursing Program: What’s the Difference?

It is a common misconception that Master’s programs, in any specific field, focus on the same areas of study. This believe is founded on the idea that the education should be universal because job requirements in that field are the same no matter where you travel. In the case of nursing master programs, this is not so.
In order to better understand the expectations and role of a Nurse Practitioner (NP), it’s important to take a look at the pros and cons of the educational programs in the US vs. UK.

Program Focus and Employability Across Borders

This is the area where the US vs. UK differ.

Typical US nurse practitioner programs focus on general care by having the students work with patients in a variety of tasks including:

  • physical exams
  • diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries
  • interpret lab reports and X-rays
  • prescribe necessary medication
  • suggest non-medication related treatments

In some cases, students in a NP program can choose to focus on either adult or pediatric care; however, this is not a requirement. Many NPs complete the program and go on to work in general fields of nursing. While this is a benefit to making it easier to find a general job, it is important to note that it also means that a nurse trained in the US may not meet clinical hour requirements for employment in the UK. For this reason, some accelerated programs are not accepted in the UK.

Typical UK nursing programs are much more specialized. Like doctor’s, nurses find a field to focus on during their education and become specialized in that field, such as:

  • research
  • lab work
  • adult care
  • pediatrics
  • psychology
  • and more…

While this makes the UK trained nurse more of an expert on that particular field, it can also more it harder for them to find employment. With a narrower focus, a UK NP will have to be more selective with the jobs that are available, and finding a job to fit his or her particular field of study is more of a challenge. It also makes it harder to find employment in the US.

The Statistics of Employment

While it is true that the need for nurses is rising, employment issues are not yet fixed.

For example in the UK, NHS cut thousands of nurses from payroll in 2012 because of budget cuts. The result was an increase in patients hiring in-home nurses to avoid a hospital stay. The number of nurses finding employment in the UK has increased in the past year, but employment is still below the average for 2010. A NP in the UK makes an average of £22,977 ($38,518 USD) per year.

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, there was a 1.2% increase in employment across the US for graduates from NP accelerated programs between 2012 and 2013. The average annual salary for a NP in the US was $92,000 in 2013.

The difference income between the two countries is vast, and with employability difficult across borders, it’s important to know where the NP’s education came from before making any hiring decisions.

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