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, and 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, and 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 liposuction, dermabrasion, chemical peels, mesotherapy, face lifts, laser hair removal, laser skin resurfacing, photofacials, tattoo removal, sclerotherapy, and hair transplants, as well as more complicated surgeries such as facial reconstruction or breast reconstruction. They also need to be well versed in brands or therapies such as BOTOX, BHRT (bioidentical hormone restoration therapy), Dysport, Sculptra, JUVDERM, Latisse, and Restylane.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the top-five cosmetic surgical procedures in 2012 were breast augmentation surgery, liposuction (removing excess pockets of fat), abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), and rhinoplasty (nose reshaping surgery). Similarly, the top five cosmetic minimally invasive procedures in 2012 were botulinum toxin (BOTOX, Dysport), soft tissue/ dermal fillers (CaHa, hyaluronic acid, collagen, fat, PLLA, PNMA), laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels. Last but certainly not least, the top five reconstructive surgeries the same year were tumor removal, laceration repair, maxillofacial surgery, scar revision, and hand surgery.
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, therefore, aesthetic nurses need a skill set comprised of the following elements: sensitive and respectful communication; a positive, non-judgmental attitude; caring behaviors; a thorough knowledge of facial anatomy and the physiology of the skin and underlying tissue; a thorough understanding of cosmeceutical products; analytical skills; and clinical competence.
Nursing duties in this specialty area often include:
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 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.
A specialty credential is available from the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board. In order to become a Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN), the candidate must be a licensed registered nurse and have a minimum of two-years' plastic surgical nursing experience during the previous five years.
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. From 2011 to 2012, there was a 3.1% increase in cosmetic surgical procedures, with Americans spending $11 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2012. Most job growth is expected in physicians' offices, as opposed to other settings.
According to Indeed.com, the average annual wage of plastic surgery nurses was $88,000 in 2011. The salary varies widely according to employer, specialty area, level of experience, certification, and location.
American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses
Body Dysmorphia and Plastic Surgery
Core Curriculum for Plastic Surgical Nursing: Psychosocial Care of the Plastic Surgical Patient
Cosmetic Procedures Increase in 2012
Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank STATISTICS 2012
Journal of Aesthetic Nursing
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Nurse
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?