How to Get a Medical License Abroad (UK and USA)
In case you wanted to leave Japan and practice medicine in the UK or USA
Part-I United Kingdom
Have you ever thought about practicing medicine abroad? If yes, you might find this article useful. Currently the United Kingdom is actively looking for doctors. There is a serious shortage of physicians in their national medical system. So if you ever considered this career path, now might be a good time to start. This article is from one our team members who has moved from Japan to the UK and is currently practicing there. Even if you haven’t thought about working abroad; this article can give you some ideas about future plans or help you to advise others.
First of all, let’s start with a common path to get a UK medical license and then later compare it with the US one. And after that, we can consider what the next steps are after you get the license.
Let us consider the path to get the UK medical license:
The first step is to pass the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) Exams. Once you have passed the exams, you can apply for GMC registration. (General Medical Council is the authority which authorizes doctors to practice in the UK).
However, before you sit for the PLAB exams, you should provide evidence of English language proficiency. Until 2019, the only accepted English certificate was the ILETS exam (you should score at least 7.5 with minimal 7 in each field such as listening, writing, speaking and reading). This is a hard test to pass without a lot of preparation. Due to the high demand for doctors in the UK, the government has eased the English requirements. In 2019, the UK started to recognize OET test (Occupational English Test) as alternative to ILETS. You should score at least B in every field to pass. OET might be easier to pass than IELTS because all the fields are medical English. For example, in the listening part, you might have a conversation between a patient and a doctor or a nurse and then you will be asked to answer some questions about what was going on in the conversation.
+ PLAB 1 exam (the Written Exam)
This is 3-hour exam composing of multiple choice questions. It is a paper test with over 160 questions. The passing score is different from exam to exam according to the average score of the all candidates who sit for the exam at the same time. PLAB 1 exam usually has 4 dates in the year in the UK and 2 dates in the year outside the UK in many countries such as Egypt, India, Pakistan, etc.
+ PLAB 2 exam (Practical Exam)
This exam can be more challenging than the PLAB 1. The key to this part of PLAB are the non-medical parts. The GMC already tested your medical knowledge in PLAB 1 exam and now is the time to show them how you will act as a doctor. I have known many doctors who failed this exam, not because a of shortage of medical knowledge, but because of communication problems. So it is critical to study how to interact with foreign patients before taking it. This exam has 18 clinical stations, typically you should pass 10 or 11 out of the 18 to pass the overall exam.
After you pass the PLAB 2 exam, you can apply now for GMC registration and it can take up to 6 weeks until they will send you your certificate. After this, it might take few weeks to get many job offers from many hospitals in the UK once you start to apply on the NHS website. This is official website that offers thousands of new medical jobs daily in the UK.
This is PLAB pathway to start your work in the UK, it can takes on average 8-9 months from the beginning till you will get the GMC registration. The key is to build your medical English knowledge so that you can pass the PLAB part 2. Without a strong ability to communicate to patients in English, it will be difficult to get registration.
In the next article we will discuss the way to USA and later on what are the advantages and disadvantages of each path.
Author: Amr Omar M.D.
Board Certified Doctor of Medicine in Egypt
Licensed Doctor of Medicine in the UK
Graduated from Alexandria University
Previously, Assistant Professor at Alexandria University
Currently, Senior House Officer, Milton Keynes University Hospital, UK
Dr. Omar enjoys playing chess, watching anime and running in his spare time. He has joined our team a specialized English trainer with international medical expertise