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How to Become a Cosmetic Nurse: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a cosmetic nurse. Research the education and career requirements, training and licensure information and experience required for starting a career in aesthetic nursing.

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Do I Want to Be a Cosmetic Nurse?

Cosmetic nurses, more commonly known as aesthetic nurses or plastic surgical nurses, are responsible for assisting with cosmetic procedures. They assist in the pre- and post-operative care of patients and stand in to help during surgical procedures. The position involves being able to stand for long periods of time, having a good bedside manner and having a strong stomach around blood. Many nurses work long shifts that often contain night and weekend hours. However, the job might appeal to those who like to help people or those who are looking for steady work; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the field should be strong over the next decade.

Job Requirements

Education requirements for cosmetic nurses vary from year-long certificate programs to master's degree programs. However, all cosmetic nurses must be licensed. The following table outlines common requirements to become a cosmetic nurse:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Varies from a 1-year certificate to a master's degree depending on the level of nursing an individual plans to pursue*
Degree Field Nursing*
Experience Varies by level of nursing*
Licensure and Certification A state-issued license is required, voluntary certification is available*
Key Skills Compassion, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, patience, speaking skills*
Technical Skills Knowledge of human anatomy and concepts related to cosmetic nursing**
Computer Skills IDX Systems software, healthcare systems software, Microsoft Office software, Microsoft Excel software***
Additional Requirements Stamina*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Nurse Zone, ***O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Determine Career Path

Cosmetic nurses may obtain a number of different credentials, and licensing requirements and employment prospects for cosmetic nurses vary based on their level of practice. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may require less training, but are not eligible for some of the advanced positions that registered nurses and nurse practitioners may be eligible for. Prospective cosmetic nurses can choose how they will advance in their field. For example, they can first seek licensure as a practical or vocational nurse and then later move on to become a registered nurse. They can also choose to pursue a registered nurse or nurse practitioner credential immediately.

Success Tip

  • Participate in a job shadow. Aspiring cosmetic nurses can participate in job shadows, which will enable them to observe a licensed nurse at work and ask questions throughout the course of a day. Job shadowing can help an aspiring nurse determine hir or her specific career goals and figure out which level of nursing is best for him or her.

Step 2: Complete Required Education

For licensed practical nurses (LPNs), education programs are often one year long and include both classroom study and supervised patient care experience. Classroom experience for an LPN includes basic patient care and medical courses such as physiology, pharmacology, nutrition and pediatrics. Supervised practice for LPNs is often at a hospital.

For registered nurses (RNs), the most common type of education is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which takes four years to complete. An associate's degree in nursing may also be a viable education path for a registered nurse, but employment opportunities are fewer, and many nurses with an associate's degree later choose to complete their bachelor's degree while working.

A postgraduate nursing degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), is required for those who wish to become nurse practitioners. Depending on the state, there may be other requirements for nurse practitioners as well.

Step 3: Obtain a Nursing License

The next step for prospective cosmetic nurses is to obtain a nursing license. Licensing requirements vary both by state and depend on the level of licensure a nurse is pursuing. LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) test along with other licensing requirements that vary by state. RNs must complete the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) examination as well as graduate from an approved nursing program. Some licensing requirements for registered nurses may also vary by state. Aspiring nurse practitioners must earn a master's degree an an RN license before seeking nurse practitioner status.

Step 4: Explore Cosmetic Nursing Specialization

In some cases, nurses who are interested in cosmetic nursing can begin seeking experience in their specialization while still in school. Some education institutions offer training in areas such as fat grafting, liposuction, chemical peel and dermal filler. Others may seek an entry-level position as a nurse at a facility where plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are performed after they graduate. Some practices hire LPNs for entry-level positions as cosmetic nurses. More advanced positions may be held by RNs or nurse practitioners, and some employers require a minimum amount of experience in cosmetic nursing before they will hire for given positions. Employers may be seeking nurses with experience specifically in areas such as assessing skin aging, botox injection and clinical application techniques and post-operative care.

Step 5: Consider Certification

Cosmetic nurses are not required to seek separate certification specifically for plastic surgical or cosmetic nursing. However, certification may be helpful for career advancement and professional development. There is no single professional certification organization for cosmetic nurses, so cosmetic nurses must choose among organizations such as the Center for Nursing Education and Testing (CNET) and the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB). Memberships in professional organizations such as the American Association of Medical Esthetic Professionals (AAMEP) are also available.

Step 6: Continue Education

Cosmetic nurses must continue their educations in order to renew licensure and any voluntary certifications they have obtained. Continuing education can be completed through courses, seminars or webinars offered by approved institutions. For example, the the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses (ASPSN) offers continuing education conferences and webinars covering advanced topics in cosmetic nursing such as neurotoxins and facial aesthetics.

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