I've lived and worked in France since 2001.
To register your qualification here you need to go in person to your local health and social security department (listed in the yellow pages as the DDASS). You must speak fluent French, and if you don't you will be refused registration as an IDE (Infirmier Diplômé d'Etat). People with European Union qualifications have the right to register straight off. You must present your original certificates with a French translation stamped by an official interpreter approved by your embassy. Others often need to work as Aide Soignants (nurses aides, care assistants) while they work for the French qualification.
Compared to my homeland (the UK) nursing here is paradise. They think they have a crisis, but it's nothing compared to the UK. The public health system here repeatedly comes top of international league tables and it's easy to see why. It's well funded and well resourced. Things such as waiting lists for surgery just don't exist as they do in the UK.
Everyone in France works a 35 hour week. Holiday entitlements are good (around six weeks plus the 13 public holidays). Pay is not amazing, but you earn enough to live on and the benefits are good (pension, travel allowance etc.) Public hospitals have a reputation for paying better than private clinics, who often skimp to make their profit. The public sector functions in an almost "money no object" fashion, which is beginning to change. Taxes here are high, but you get what you pay for - a good health service, good schools
, excellent public transport and civic amenities.
Most nurses work a fixed shift (mornings, afternoons or nights) with some places having implemented the long day/night (12 hours). Your meal breaks are paid, and many hospitals provide you with a free meal on duty. Very few places have shift rotation between night and day like in the UK. You're usually either a morning nurse, an afternoon nurse or a night nurse. IDE (registered nurse) levels are low but you always have a good number of Aide soignants to support you, and they are trained to a high level - they can generally be trusted to get on with the basic care. The nurses job here is more focused on the technical tasks - drugs, IVs, bloods etc. Nursing here is still very task orientated (something I personally like). Nurses here are very efficient, but perhaps lack the 'personal touch' of anglo-saxon culture. It's a different relationship here - the patient sees you more as a professional and maintains an almost formal respect which I think British patients no longer have.
In larger cities agency nursing is possible and is well paid. The shortage of nurses here means there is always agency work. Recruitment of foreign nurses is becoming increasingly common.
Many nurses here set up in their own practices (Infirmiers libérals) You go to these nurses with all your prescptions for things like dresings, injections etc. Practice nurses don't exist and less happens in outpatients than in the UK, so these nurses fulfil that role, as well as providing homecare like the British district nurse.
If you speak English there are increasingly opprtunities for bi-lingual nurses in international companies and NGO's. There are both an American and a Franco-British hospital just outside Paris catering largely to ex-pats. Bi-lingual posts always pay better, you can really sell your English here, but you must speak good French too.
Personally, I love life here and would recomend it to anybody. The French, I feel, get an unfairly bad press abroad. Once you penetrate this society you realise what a warm race of people they are. The pace of life here (even in Paris) is slow and civilised. There is a very rich cultural life here and the food and wine of course are unbeatable. Working life is very civilised; due to the socialist cullture and strong unions things are very much weighted in the employees favour. Nursing care here is good; medical standards are high. I would say go for it.