Aesthetic practitioners (APs) are less well-known within the broader scope of nursing, but their functions are just as important as the nurse who works for an OB/GYN or general practitioner. In fact, APs fulfill a variety of tasks concerning cosmetic treatment, from patient assessment to recovery. At DeNova Research in Chicago, IL, patients form close bonds with all our staff in a relaxing environment overlooking Lake Michigan.
What Is an Aesthetic Practitioner?
We tend to imagine nurses as bustling around hospitals to help admitted patients, but aesthetic practitioners give rise to a new ideal. They are registered nurses who, with advanced training, have extensive knowledge of cosmetic therapies. Their qualifications allow them to deliver or assist with a range of cosmetic treatments, including:
- Skin rejuvenation, such as pore reduction and blemish removal
- Anti-wrinkle treatment
- Acne scar treatment
- Stretch mark removal
- Hair restoration and removal
- Pigment removal
- Neck lifting
- Breast firming and augmentation
- Lip enhancement
- Surgical and non-surgical facelift
- Fat removal
Because of their specialized training, APs hold positions in diverse environments like medical spas, outpatient facilities, and clinics. Their work can be performed autonomously or in conjunction with a plastic surgeon or other physician. In some cases, APs develop treatment plans, and other times they carry out plans as recommended by the physician.
In a survey from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, 70 percent of respondents said they wanted to undergo cosmetic treatment. This proves an increasing number of patients feel dissatisfied with their appearances, and when asked why they desired treatment in the first place, most said to boost their confidence.
Where once cosmetic treatments were associated with “older” or “wealthy” patients, they are now commonplace. And thanks to social media, people openly share their stories rather than try to hide that they’ve had treatment. This means the demand for APs is rising every day. In addition, new treatments constantly emerge, allowing APs to expand their offerings and meet evolving patient needs.
APs often develop close relationships with patients who come in for regular treatments, such as Botox. Although the work is less stressful than in a hospital environment, schedules are still full. The advantage is that APs usually know exactly which patients they will see and what therapies they will perform every day. Only rarely do they respond to emergencies.
Much of what an AP does depends on the sort of practice they’re in. For example, in a physician’s office, they might spend time assisting with surgeries or helping patients in recovery. Conversely, in a medical spa environment, APs may be in charge of a variety of tasks, from meeting with vendors to overseeing staff. But the common denominator in all these environments is working with patients to:
- Screen and educate prior to treatment
- Deliver pre- and post-operative care
- Examine skin to assess overall health and aging
- Assist physicians with procedures and treatment plans
- Optimize satisfaction and identify areas for improvement
A Day In the Life
Most APs arrive to work 30 to 45 minutes early to ensure the office is organized and they are prepared for the day ahead. They further use this time to plan their schedule to accommodate patients’ busy lives. Cosmetic therapy is usually elective rather than medically necessary. This means focused patient care is critical to a successful practice.
To squeeze the most out of their days, APs rely on other staff members for tasks like patient billing, scheduling, and reception. They also coordinate with doctors, meaning they work as part of an integrated team to maximize patient outcomes. Sometimes this requires attending staff meetings, but always APs must exercise a high degree of emotional intelligence so they can communicate effectively with both colleagues and patients.
No two patient cases are exactly alike. In back to back appointments, an AP may – for example – provide laser resurfacing to a man in his 20s to help with acne scars and then meet with a woman in her 40s who wants to erase crow’s feet. Consultations are as important as treatments, meaning an AP should be able to help patients choose the most beneficial therapy.
Because beauty trends change frequently, APs also make suggestions. They may shepherd a patient through multiple treatments in one day – such as Botox and lip augmentation – or deliver treatments in an ongoing series, such as laser hair removal. Staying abreast of technical advances, new techniques, and best practices are therefore essential to daily tasks.
The Most Common Treatments
The 2019 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report revealed the following surgical procedures as most frequently requested by patients:
- Breast augmentation
- Nose reshaping
- Eyelid surgery
Likewise, the five most requested non-invasive therapies included:
- Dermal fillers
- Laser hair removal
- Chemical peel
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment
Variety Is the Spice of Life
It’s hard to describe a “typical” day for APs because aesthetics is far from a routine field. What we can say is that these providers enjoy great satisfaction in their work. Providing patients with a more positive self-image can be very rewarding, especially when it’s achieved with something as simple as an injectable filler.
This is not to say, however, the work itself is simple because all of medicine presents a level of complexity. APs must answer the questions of patients seeking tangible results, and they must account for the work they perform. To help balance such rigors, these providers often work traditional and consistent hours, without the stress of being on-call or working holidays. They may work one or two late nights and a Saturday morning to accommodate patient needs.
The Important Role APs Play
In cosmetic treatments, it is often said the most important component is not the therapy or procedure itself, but the person performing it. According to recent annual Gallop polls, Americans consistently vote nurse as among the most honest and ethical of professions. In addition, Americans routinely say workplace conduct standards for nurses are higher than most professions.
Nurses in aesthetic medicine must provide skilled care in a very tactful manner. Patients who see APs have factors other than cosmetic appearance that need to be considered and managed, such as fears of growing and looking old. Many patients want advice regarding congenital deformities, facial symmetry, injuries, and issues like muscle twitching and headaches.
Combining Care and Skill
APs also provide a specific level of comfort that cannot be mimicked by other professionals in this field. Physicians command respect, and assistants usually have less patient interaction. APs bridge this gap and see the bigger picture patients present, including problems with confidence and self-worth, fears (as discussed just a moment ago), and psychological impairments like depression caused by an aesthetic concern.
APs are trained to recognize these issues using foundational nursing skills. They are adept at assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating treatment. On a daily basis, they must also take the correct precautions to ensure patient safety and comfort. Physicians play important roles in these functions as well, but because of the elective nature of aesthetic medicine, APs often serve as the patient’s direct line of contact.
How They Differ From Estheticians
APs and estheticians can work collaboratively but have different responsibilities within a practice. Most nursing boards permit APs to perform the same roles as estheticians – like waxing, facials, and chemical peels – but not vice versa. This is owed entirely to education. APs go to school longer and therefore have more extensive training in anatomy, physiology, and the integumentary (skin) system.
While APs may not receive specific training for treatments like facials, they maintain a deeper understanding of the body’s interconnectedness. Conversely, estheticians focus on customer-centric tasks like:
- Esthetic massage
- Relaxing facial treatments
- Skin analyses
- Skincare product recommendations
For further distinction, APs take on assessments deemed high-level within a practice, such as wound care and dressing changes. Their directives often come from the physician, whereas an esthetician is likely to work more independently. Both APs and estheticians, however, spend considerable time with patients, meaning they both must communicate clearly and be able to answer questions.
Education and Training Required
To become an AP, you must first become a registered nurse within your state. This means graduating with a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited institute and then passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The third step is to advance your education by obtaining either a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Once your advanced education requirements are met, you must gain on-the-job experience by training with plastic surgeons or dermatologists. This will improve your skillset and allow you to begin meeting with patients. The last step is to get certified. Although not required, certification proves your dedication to the field and can be obtained from the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board. Courses can also be taken with the:
- American Aesthetic Association
- American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery
- International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine
After completing formal training, APs can pursue continuing education courses in specialized fields like laser treatments, Botox injections, and dermal fillers. Taking these allows providers to establish niche practices, keep pace with emerging trends, and provide more comprehensive treatment to patients. Continuing education also allows:
- A greater degree of creativity.
- The opportunity to move into emerging markets
- Expand skills
- Display additional credentials for patients to see
A Note on Aesthetic Medicine
This blanket term refers to a wide range of treatments and procedures designed to enhance the appearance, self-image, and confidence of patients. And it is growing at demanding rates, with administered therapies projected to leap by almost 10 percent each year through 2026. The bottom line is that we all want to look our best; aging gracefully no longer means silently accepting wrinkles and folds.
Years ago, aesthetic medicine almost always delivered an “overdone” look. Today, it’s far more trendy to achieve gradual and natural results, which new developments allow us to achieve. And as we said earlier, patients no longer have to wait until a certain age before treatment is acceptable.
An Option for All Ages
Patients in their 20s commonly receive laser hair removal, cellulite treatments, and skin rejuvenation. At 30, men and women can receive therapy for lost volume, wrinkles, and fine lines in their faces. From age 40, treatments that stimulate natural collagen synthesis to strengthen the skin’s barrier and naturally smooth skin are commonplace. Around age 50, aesthetic medicine can address age spots, folds, and hollows under the eyes and in the temples.
Providers Who Care
The choice to pursue cosmetic therapy is intensely personal, which is why it’s so important that providers care about their patients. Aesthetic practitioners, who are instrumental in a practice’s daily tasks, ensure patient comfort from the beginning to the end of treatment. To meet with a member of our helpful staff, call DeNova Research in Chicago, IL, today.