The Aesthetic Nurse
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. They assist in:
smoothing away wrinkles
treating aging skin
plumping up thin small lips
filling out cheeks
improving imperfections such as scars
These nursing professionals 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.
Nurses employed in this specialty area need to have a good knowledge of procedures such as:
laser hair removal
laser skin resurfacing
They also need to be well versed in brands or therapies such as:
BHRT (bioidentical hormone restoration therapy)
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the top five cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures in 2019 were:
laser hair removal
non-surgical fat reduction
photo rejuvenation (IPL)
NOTE: The above statistics now only include board-certified plastic surgeons, whereas prior surveys also included dermatologists and otolaryngologists.
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.
Duties / Responsibilities
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
thorough knowledge of facial anatomy and physiology of the skin and underlying tissue
thorough understanding of cosmeceutical products
Keeping up with the latest aesthetic surgery protocols
Patient consultations/ screenings
Assessment of the patient's general health, psychosocial status, and face and neck
Pre- and post-operative instructions
Administering chemical peels
Botox/ dermal filler/ volume enhancer injections
Laser and intense pulse-light treatments
Venipuncture and intravenous therapy
Liposuction nursing procedures (monitoring, positioning, post-operative dressings, and compression garments)
Preparing the surgery room, including sterilizing instruments
Peri-operative management (preparing patients for surgical procedures; attending to patients during surgery; postoperative care; and avoidance of or dealing with complications)
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
RN in 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:
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 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
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 injectibles. 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.
According to Indeed.com, the average salary for "plastic surgery nurse" ranges from approximately $1,431 per week for Nurse to $2,585 per week for Clinical Nurse (2020).
The salary varies widely according to the employer, specialty area, level of experience, certification, and location.
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery National Databank Statistics for 2019
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Quick Facts: Highlights of the 2019 Stats
Body Dysmorphia and Plastic Surgery
Core Curriculum for Plastic Surgical Nursing: Psychosocial Care of the Plastic Surgical Patient
indeed.com (2020): Plastic Surgery Nurse Salaries in the United States
International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses
Journal of Aesthetic Nursing
Plastic Surgery Nurse
Plastic Surgical Nursing
Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board
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?
Top 5 Surgical and Nonsurgical Procedures 2019