How To Become An Aesthetic Nurse

Are you training to become a nurse? Do you love helping people look and feel their best? If you can answer “yes” to both questions, you are a strong candidate to become an aesthetic nurse As is the case for any nursing specialty, becoming a certified aesthetic nurse specialist takes several years of study and practical training. It’s worth the work. After successfully completing hands-on training, these medical professionals may perform a range of cosmetic procedures and interventions that include (but are not limited to):
  • Dermal fillers
  • Botulinum toxin injections (Botox®)
  • Tattoo removal
  • Laser skin treatment
  • Hair removal
  • Liposuction and other body contouring procedures
  • Aesthetic surgeries such as scar removal
Physician-taught aesthetician training courses teach all of these competencies and more, plus advanced surgical procedures, injection techniques, and practice management skills. But the process of becoming a certified aesthetic nurse begins well before you enroll in your first training module — often, even before you enroll in nursing school. This guide covers the steps to take after determining that aesthetic nursing is the right career path for you.

Steps to Become a Certified Aesthetic Nurse

Becoming a certified aesthetic nurse typically takes four to seven years from the day you enroll in nursing school until the day you pass your Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board exam and officially earn your certification. The exact time frame depends mainly on your nursing program (nursing degree type) and how long you work under a board-certified physician before taking your aesthetic nursing exam.

Complete Your Nursing Degree

This is a crucial first step for anyone hoping to find a job in a nursing specialty, including aesthetic nursing. Aspiring aesthetic nurses have several degree options available to them. The most common are:  
  • Associate’s degree in nursing: Known as an ADN, this two-year degree is a “basic” nursing certification and a prerequisite for working as a licensed nurse in the United States. ADN holders can find work as aesthetic nurses but typically have lower earning power and may find themselves underqualified for some jobs.
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing: Known as a BSN, this four-year degree is a “standard” nursing certification. BSNs command higher starting salaries than ADNs and may have more job opportunities available to them.
  • Master’s degree in nursing: Known as an MSN (master’s of science in nursing), this five-year degree is increasingly favored by demanding employers. An MSN is not a terminal nursing degree — that’s a nurse practitioner (NP) degree — but MSNs nevertheless enjoy higher starting salaries and more career opportunities than either ADNs or BSNs.
 

Pass the NCLEX-RN and Gain Required Experience in a Core Competency

After completing your chosen nursing degree program, you must study for and pass the NCLEX-RN nursing exam. This licensing examination is required to become licensed to practice as a nurse anywhere in the United States. Passing the NCLEX-RN nursing exam does not make you a formally certified aesthetic nurse. Once you’re licensed to work as a nurse in the U.S., you’ll still need to gain two years of experience working under a plastic surgeon or other board-certified physician in one of the four core competencies for aesthetic nursing:
  • Plastic, aesthetic, or cosmetic surgery
  • Dermatology
  • Facial plastic surgery
  • Ophthalmology
You’ll need to spend at least 1,000 hours specifically working in one of these four core competencies. You can do this simultaneously — that is, working under the same physician you’re using to gain the requisite two years’ experience. To gain all this experience, you’ll first need to find a job with a practice or health system that’s hiring nurses (or accepting nurse interns) in your preferred discipline. This requires extensive networking, preferably beginning while you are still in nursing school, and probably multiple multi-round interview processes before you actually land a job. You should be willing to relocate for your first job, and if said relocation involves a move across state lines, you’ll need to complete any additional certification requirements to ensure proper licensure in your new home. To increase your chances of quickly finding a job or internship that gains you the requisite aesthetic nursing experience, you should:
  • Enroll in a physician-led aesthetician certification course or course package 
  • Network with physicians and nurse injectors you meet during training
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and make it clear that you’re pursuing an aesthetic nursing certification
  • Reach out informally to board-certified professionals who may be willing to have you intern (shadow) at their practice or create a position for you to gain the experience you need

Pursue Your Formal Aesthetic Nursing Certification

Only after gaining a minimum of two years of relevant practice experience can you take the final step in the process of becoming an aesthetic nurse. While it’s not required that you pursue a former aesthetic nursing board certification to work as a nurse in an aesthetic subspecialty, doing so affords you the optimal combination of earning power and career advancement potential. The Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board administers board certification exams for the two types of aesthetic nurse: Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN) and Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS). To officially obtain one of these certifications, you’ll need to take and pass the appropriate certification exam.

What Is an Aesthetic Nurse? And Other Questions Answered 

It’s natural for aspiring aesthetic nurses to have questions about the field and its training and certification requirements. These are among the most common.

What Is an Aesthetic Nurse? What Do Aesthetic Nurses Do?

Aesthetic nurses assist cosmetic surgeons and other aesthetic practitioners in their duties. Aesthetic nurses’ responsibilities can include:
  • Managing patient intake, including patient screening, interviews, and pre-treatment examinations
  • Preparing equipment and medications for cosmetic procedures
  • Assisting physicians and surgeons during cosmetic surgeries and treatments
  • Performing minimally invasive cosmetic treatments, such as Botox and dermal filler injections, laser skin treatments, tattoo removal, and more
  • Conducting follow-up visits and providing post-procedure care

How Much Do Aesthetic Nurses Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a registered nurse in the United States was about $75,000 in 2020. Starting salaries tend to be lower than, but aesthetic nurses willing to learn on the job and take on additional responsibilities can quickly see their earning power rise. Nurse pay varies regionally as well, with nurses in high cost-of-living areas tending to earn more than their counterparts in lower cost-of-living areas.

Is the Field of Aesthetic Nursing Growing?

Another way to ask this is: Is becoming an aesthetic nurse a good career decision? The answer is yes. The nursing field as a whole is growing faster than the wider job market — by about 7% per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Aesthetic nurses can find employment in a variety of medical settings: aesthetician clinics, cosmetic surgery practices, medical spas, and more. Due to increasing demand for cosmetic treatments — from Botox and dermal fillers to more invasive aesthetic surgical procedures — aesthetic nurses are likely to be in short supply for the foreseeable future.

Do Aesthetic Nurses Need to Complete Continuing Education Requirements?

The Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board requires formally certified aesthetic nurses (CANS or CPSN) to complete continuing education requirements (practice requirements) in preparation for recertification every three years or retake the appropriate board certification exam in lieu of continuing education.  For nurses in active practice, the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification board requires at least 45 contact hours (continuing education training hours) with at least two hours specifically devoted to patient safety and 30 hours devoted to the four core aesthetic nursing specialties.
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