Aesthetic / Plastic Surgery Nursing

Plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing healthcare specialties today. Aesthetic nurses provide patient care and assistance within a variety of procedural and perioperative settings to improve or enhance the patient's appearance. These nursing professionals care for patients undergoing elective minor cosmetic procedures, cosmetic and maxillofacial surgery, major reconstructive surgery, laser and microsurgery, and minimally-invasive body treatments. Specialties Aesthetics Article


Aesthetic / Plastic Surgery Nursing

Aesthetic nurses (also known as cosmetic or plastic surgery nurses) provide patient care and assistance within a variety of procedural and perioperative settings to improve or enhance the patient's appearance.

Aesthetic Nurses assist in:

  • Smoothing away wrinkles
  • Treating aging skin
  • Plumping up thin small lips
  • Filling out cheeks
  • Improving imperfections such as scars

Aesthetic Nurses care for patients undergoing:

  • Elective minor cosmetic procedures
  • Cosmetic and maxillofacial surgery
  • Major reconstructive surgery
  • Laser and microsurgery
  • Minimally-invasive body treatments to correct aesthetic problems such as cellulite or keloids

They also monitor patients' recovery after procedures, administer medications, and change bandages.

Aesthetic Nurses possess skills in various procedures such as:

  • Liposuction
  • Dermabrasion
  • Chemical peels
  • Mesotherapy
  • Face lifts
  • Laser hair removal
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Photofacials
  • Tattoo removal
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Hair transplants
  • Facial reconstruction
  • Breast reconstruction

Aesthetic Nurses are well versed in brands or therapies such as:

  • BHRT (bioidentical hormone restoration therapy)
  • Dysport
  • Sculptra
  • Latisse
  • Restylane

Top 5 Cosmetic Surgical and Non-Surgical Procedures

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the top five cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures in 2019 were:

Surgical Procedures

  1. Breast augmentation
  2. Lipo suction
  3. Breast lift
  4. Tummy tuck
  5. Eyelid

Non-surgical Procedures

  1. Botulinum toxin
  2. Hyaluronic acid
  3. Laser hair removal
  4. Non-surgical fat reduction
  5. Photo rejuvenation (IPL)

NOTE: The above statistics now only include board-certified plastic surgeons, whereas prior surveys also included dermatologists and otolaryngologists.

Work Environment

Aesthetic nurses work directly with board-certified physicians/plastic surgeons and surgical teams in the operating room (private suites or hospitals). They also work in outpatient dermatology practices, otolaryngology clinics, free-standing surgery centers, office practices, and medical spa settings.


One of the primary goals of cosmetic procedures is to improve the patient's perception of self and psychological health by modifying body image.

In order to function therapeutically in the cosmetic environment, Aesthetic Nurses should possess the following skill set:

  • Sensitive and respectful communication
  • Positive, non-judgmental attitude
  • Caring behavior
  • Thorough knowledge of facial anatomy and physiology of the skin and underlying tissue
  • Thorough understanding of cosmeceutical products
  • Analytical skills
  • Clinical competence

Nursing Duties / Responsibilities

  1. Keeping up with the latest aesthetic surgery protocols
  2. Patient consultations/ screenings
  3. Assessment of the patient's general health, psychosocial status, and face and neck
  4. Patient scheduling
  5. Pre- and post-operative instructions
  6. Administering chemical peels
  7. Botox/ dermal filler/ volume enhancer injections
  8. Laser and intense pulse-light treatments
  9. Venipuncture and intravenous therapy
  10. Liposuction nursing procedures (monitoring, positioning, post-operative dressings, and compression garments)
  11. Preparing the surgery room, including sterilizing instruments
  12. Peri-operative management (preparing patients for surgical procedures; attending to patients during surgery; postoperative care; and avoidance of or dealing with complications)
  13. Inventory management

Education Requirements

The road to becoming an established and experienced aesthetics provider is long and arduous. Aspiring Aesthetic Nurses must first be a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) with an ADN, Diploma, or BSN. A BSN is the preferred degree within this competitive field. Most Aesthetic Nurses work in another field (such as general surgery or dermatology) before focusing on this specialty. Since there is presently no defined curriculum for a novice aesthetic nurse to follow, it is vitally important to get as much training and experience in a plastic surgery environment as possible.

Post-baccalaureate certificate training courses are available that cover anatomy related to aesthetics and dermatology, aging, skin biochemistry and physiology, face and body sculpting, and skin conditions and the methods used to cosmetically treat them. Some feature hands-on experience in dermal fillers, botox, light-based treatments, ablative skin resurfacing, and chemical peels.


Specialty credentials are available from the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board.

  • Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS)
  • Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN)

CANS Eligibility Requirements for Certification (not all-inclusive)

  • RN in the U.S., its territories, or Canada; unencumbered license
  • Minimum 1000 practice hours within the core specialties in last (2) years
  • Minimum (2) years RN experience within the four Core Specialties in collaboration or in a practice with a physician that is board certified within a core specialty
  • Working in collaboration or in a practice with a physician that is Board Certified within one of the following specialties:
    • Plastic/Aesthetic Surgery
    • Ophthalmology
    • DermatologyFacial Plastic Surgery (ENT)
  • Application endorsed by the nurse's supervising core physician who holds a current full and unrestricted license

CPSN Eligibility Requirements for Certification

  • RN currently licensed in the U.S., its territories, or Canada
  • Unencumbered RN license
  • Minimum (2) years plastic surgical nursing experience as an RN in a general staff, administrative, teaching, or research capacity for at least three (3) years prior to application, and
  • Spent at least 1,000 practice hours in plastic surgical nursing during (2) of the preceding (3) years
  • Be currently working in the field of plastic surgical nursing in collaboration with a board-certified plastic surgeon who holds a current full and unrestricted license

Job Outlook

Due to the aging Baby Boomers' insatiable quest to regain their youthful appearance, coupled with a significant rise in minimally-invasive procedures which has resulted in greater accessibility and lower costs, plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing healthcare specialties today.

In 2019, more than 1.6 billion dollars were spent on injectables. And, more than 1 billion dollars were spent on silicone gel breast implants.  Most job growth is expected in physicians' offices as opposed to other settings.

Salary (2020)

According to, the average annual salary ranges from approximately $61,214 for Rns to $117,711 for NPs.

The salary varies widely according to the employer, specialty area, level of experience, certification, and location.


Body Dysmorphia and Plastic Surgery

Core Curriculum for Plastic Surgical Nursing: Psychosocial Care of the Plastic Surgical Patient

International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses

Plastic Surgery Nurse

Plastic Surgical Nursing Journal

The Ethical Dilemmas of Aesthetic Medicine: What Every Provider Should Consider

The "Nuts & Bolts" of Becoming an Aesthetic Provider: Part 1--How Do I Get Started?

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VickyRN, PhD, RN, is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is a Professor in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.

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