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Lost in Translation: Navigating Slang Challenges for International Nurses

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​For international nurses to work in the UK, language requirements are set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC requires international nurses to achieve a certain score in an approved English language proficiency test. The two most common tests accepted by the NMC are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET). 

Although international nurses need to be proficient in English before practicing as a UK nurse, many may face challenges when it comes to regional dialects in the hospitals they work. Slang and regional dialects can be difficult to understand for someone who is not familiar with them.  We all use slang and colloquialisms in our everyday life but often don't realise how alien certain terms may sound to those not from the UK or even the local area.


Slang terms can vary greatly depending on the community and time period, Nevertheless, below are several Manchester slang terms that locals from the area would likely be familiar with, requiring little to no explanation!

  • Manc/Mancunian - Someone from Manchester.

  • Mint - Great, excellent.

  • Buzzing - Excited, thrilled.

  • Sound - OK, fine, good.

  • Gaff - Home or house.

  • Chuddy - Chewing gum.

  • Barm - Bread roll.

  • Scran - Food.

  • Skint - Out of money, broke.

  • Bobbins - Rubbish, poor quality.

  • Swerve - To avoid something or someone.

  • Our kid - Referring to a sibling or close friend

and the list goes on!

Imagine an international nurse hearing this from a work colleague, "Alright mate, fancy a pint? It's proper belting weather for it!" or "I might give that a swerve!" It's easy to see how such expressions such as these could lead to confusion.  Often lived experience will improve an international nurse's understanding of slang but many NHS Trusts are addressing the challenges that the use of slang can bring as part of their Pastoral Care Programmes. In a pod cast, recorded in August 2023, between Chris Oliver (CEO) and Becky Simpson (Safer Staffing Matron) at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, the use of slang in hospital settings was discussed.  Becky spoke of their own pastoral care initiatives saying that: "things that seem little to us are big and important to the nurses."

Pastoral Care

At Nursingjobsuk we are Approved providers of Pastoral Care by the NHS Workforce Alliance. We run Pre-departure meetings as part of the pastoral care we offer to our international nurses. The Pre-departure meetings, which take place whilst the nurses are still in their home country and before travelling to the UK, are designed to prepare candidates for working in an NHS environment. As well as the use of slang we cover a wide range of topics from what clothes to bring to providing a list of Dos and Don'ts in relation to health and safety.

A dedicated team support all candidates throughout their journey from initial contact and beyond their initial deployment in the UK.  This ensures maximum retention rates.

English Language Support

Our partners at Swoosh English specialise in exam preparation for OET and IELTS. With a track record of helping more than 22,000 students in successfully passing their exams, Swoosh English helps individuals fulfill their aspirations of working as a nurse in an English-speaking country.​​The courses feature a diverse range of materials, including: exam readiness tests, mock exams, live classes, writing corrections and expert feedback.

If you would like to learn more about our partners at Swoosh English and participate in their FREE "Fast Pass Masterclass" click here to register your interest.

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