OSCE information

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The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) is part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registration process for nurses and midwives trained outside of the European Union (EU)/ European Economic Area (EEA).

Click on the links below for further information:

The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)

The OSCE is based on UK pre-registration standards. Candidates are required to act out scenarios that nurses or midwives are likely to encounter when assessing, planning, delivering and evaluating care.  An individual entering the UK to take a nursing role has up to three months (12 weeks) from the employment start date noted on the certificate of sponsorship to sit the OSCE exam. During this period they can be legally employed as a pre-registration candidate. Applicants must complete the OSCE in the UK at an approved test centre.

What is involved in the OSCE?

The OSCE is made up of six separate stations using simulated patients in a clinical setting. Four stations are designed to test the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of care, and the remaining two stations test clinical skills. The NHS constitutional values and the 6Cs of nursing are assessed throughout the OSCE at all stations.  

Approved OSCE test centres

As of December 2016, there are now two universities which are approved OSCE test centres, providing a choice of three locations to sit the OSCE. Please visit the links below for more information:

OSCE preparation

To ensure candidates have adequate time to prepare for the OSCE, they are given up to 12 weeks from the start date on their certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to complete the exam. In the run-up to the exam, candidates should be given support and the opportunity to practice and prepare for the OSCE. 

The experience a candidate has in the first few weeks is vital to their success in the OSCE. The NMC's registration process no longer requires applicants to complete a period of supervised practice, therefore the importance of establishing a quality and well-structured induction and socialisation period is critical. Many trusts also provide specific OSCE preparation support for their international recruits. 

In preparation for the OSCE, it is important that candidates are familiar with the NMC nursing blueprints. The exam blueprints set out the scope and content of the OSCE in terms of the topics, skills and procedures that a newly registered nurse would need to know and be able to demonstrate. Find out more and access a copy of the blueprints on the NMC website.

Top tips for preparing candidates for the OSCE

The following top tips were provided by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – both trusts have support programmes in place. Vickie Jones, clinical education facilitator at Cambridge University hospitals, has also written a blog on designing an OSCE preparation programme. Also, read the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals case study on OSCE preparation.

  • Empower candidates with practice and experience, and stress the importance of being able to verbalise and demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Build up their resilience and confidence to speak up in front of others, as this can be something which overseas nurses are not always comfortable with. 
  • Set up practice rooms in the same way as the OSCE, with simulated patients in a clinical setting, so that the setting is familiar to them.
  • Create a dedicated support group - for example, a Facebook group.
  • Consider sending a representative to the train-the-trainer course run by the University of Northampton, who is in a position to cascade the information within their trust.
  • Make sure candidates have plenty of time to practise their skills prior to taking the OSCE.
  • Plan a mock, timed practice at least three weeks before the OSCE date to help identify if the candidate is ready (any later than this may then cause a delay in getting a new test date within the 12 week limit).
  • If your candidates are not ready for their test, make sure you give them the choice to change the date.
  • Although there is always time pressure linked to a candidate sitting the OSCE and to move staff through this process quickly, low pass rates suggest speed initially may cause more difficulties in the long term.

Useful information

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Visit the NMC website for further information about joining the UK register and for information around the NMC nursing exam blueprint.

NMC approved OCSE test centres

Visit the University of Northampton OSCE page and Oxford Brookes University OSCE page to find:

  • the candidate journey document
  • a candidate information booklet on 'How to prepare for the OSCE' (including a summary of common failure points on page nine)
  • an OSCE video
  • info about costs, how to book the exam and location maps
  • train the trainer course contact details.

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