Aesthetic Nurse Practitioners: A guide to becoming one in 2020

One of the most interesting career choices for an NP is to become an aesthetic nurse practitioner. It’s a great opportunity, with a generous salary, and generally low work-related levels of stress. In this blog post we’ll guide you through what it means to be an aesthetic nurse practitioner, the different steps you need to take to get a job on this field, the requirements, and everything else.


You probably have heard about aesthetic (or cosmetic) nurses before. But what is the difference between an aesthetic nurse and an aesthetic nurse practitioner? Well, for one, aesthetic nurse practitioners can do certain things that RNs can’t, such as opening their own practices and prescribing medication.


You don’t need to be an NP to become a cosmetic nurse. However, cosmetic NPs do have some advantages that come with their higher education and work experience. We’ll talk about them more later.



What is an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner?


An aesthetic nurse practitioner is an APRN who works with patients that have cosmetic issues. They want to improve their appearance, and you can help them with counseling and treatment.


These treatments cover a wide range of options. Obviously, you’re not going to perform plastic surgery, but there’s a lot you can do for them. For example, you can do:

  • Botox injections (dermal fillers)
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Laser treatment on the skin
  • Chemical peels
  • Thermage


Botox injections might be the most common procedure for nurses working in cosmetic clinics. Demand for these types of procedures is always high and there’s a lot of resources out there for NPs to educate themselves on this matter. 


Aside from that, you can get experience working with Botox by finding a job in a cosmetic clinic. We’ll cover this later as well.


Sclerotherapy, if you haven’t heard about it already, is what clinicians use to treat the appearance of varicose veins in the body. Many people don’t like having visible veins in their legs (for example), and sclerotherapy helps with that.


Laser treatments can help with issues like tattoo removal, also a very popular dermatological procedure. Other skin treatments involving laser technology include microdermabrasions and photo facials.


If you want to learn more about available treatments, see this slideshow from WebMD on common aesthetic procedures. These are non-surgical treatments that many patients choose to avoid cosmetic surgery. You could help them with that!


Why should I become an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner?


Being an aesthetic nurse practitioner is about helping patients be confident in their own skin, most of the time literally. However, it is also about guiding them through cosmetic issues. 


That might include advising against certain treatments, or against any kind of treatment. You’ll have many patients coming in who think they need something they really don’t need. 99% of the time people look great just the way they are (not having any real cosmetic issues) and the procedure they’re asking to be performed on them would most likely damage their appearance instead of making it better. It would also be your job to help them understand that and advise what’s best for them in order for them to feel happy and comfortable.


Aesthetic NPs don’t just work with Botox. They leverage their expertise and experience to assist MDs with aesthetic surgical procedures, treat patients on their own (as noted above), and provide education to patients on cosmetic issues. They also help them with recovery.


As you can see, there’s a lot that you can do as an Aesthetic NP, and we’re barely covering the basic treatments here. It definitely is a great career to pursue!


If you already have an interest in cosmetics, becoming an Aesthetic NP might be the career path for you. Now, let’s look at how you can build that path up.



Current requirements to become an Aesthetic NP


Aside from having your MSN or DNP degree, your license and everything else needs to be in order, naturally. 


After that, you need to have some experience working in the core competencies of the field. NPs who want to work in aesthetics need to learn how to perform the procedures and treatments by working with plastic surgeons, dermatologists, or even ophthalmologists.


Usually, you would need to have at least 2 years of experience to gain the necessary skills. However, this number is just an estimate to get a job. There isn’t a set number of hours needed to become an Aesthetic NP.


You can also get your training and education by completing courses. The American Aesthetic Association, the American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery, and the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine all offer courses and resources to learn more about this specialty.


There is also no required certification for nurse practitioners who want to enter the field of aesthetics. You can do it all yourself by just learning and working. However, there are some options if you’re really serious about being certified.


The certifications are offered by the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB). They have two types of certification: the Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN), and the Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS).


Getting certified to work in aesthetic medicine


Here’s a list of the current requirements to apply for both certifications:


Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse


  • Holding a current full and unrestricted license as an RN.
  • A minimum of 2 years of plastic surgical nursing as an RN in a general staff, administrative, teaching, or research role for at least 3 years prior to application.
  • 1,000 practice hours during 2 of the preceding 3 years.
  • Having a job collaborating with a board certified plastic surgeon that has an unrestricted license.


Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist


  • Holding a current full and unrestricted license as an RN.
  • 1,000 practice hours within the core specialties* during the last 2 years.
  • Minimum of 2 years of experience as an RN within the four core specialties. This is in collaboration or in a practice with a physician that is board certified in one of those core specialties. You must have experience working in a general staff, administrative, teaching or research role for at least 3 years before applying.
  • Having a current job with a physician that is board certified in one of the four core specialties*.
  • Your supervising physician, who must have an unrestricted license, must endorse your application.


*The four core specialties mentioned here are: Plastic or Aesthetic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, and Facial Plastic Surgery (ENT).



Other details to consider


As you can see, it is not easy to get certified in either of these options. If you are a practicing NP, you might find it difficult to go back to work as a registered nurse for two years.


With this in mind, we could say that the best path for NPs to become Aesthetic Nurse Practitioners is to learn on their own and find a job in the field.


Many of our readers are just graduating from NP school. If you are one of them, and you’re interested in cosmetics, now’s the time to go look for that RN job, aside from learning on your own.


Being a CPSN or CANS also requires you to recertify every 3 years. The requirements are the same for both specializations:


  • Your license.
  • CE certificates, which must be from an accredited source.
  • Attestation signed by a supervisor or supervising core physician.


Also, if you’re publishing articles as a way to get CE credits, you must publish them within your 3-year certification period.


There is no additional information specifically directed to nurse practitioners who want to hold one of these certifications. In the eyes of the PSNCB, you are a cosmetic RN.


This is why there isn’t a way to recertify yourself as an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner. You only have to complete your regular NP recertification requirements, depending on your state. 


Not being able to link your NP name to the aesthetic world through a certification – you can only do it using your RN title – might seem a little unfair. However, you should remember that you have an advantage as a nurse practitioner. You enjoy a great deal of autonomy in your practice and your education. That can open some doors for you anyway.


What is it like to work as an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner?


The main benefit for nurse practitioners who want to work in aesthetic medicine might just be peace of mind. As we said earlier, working with patients who need cosmetic treatments usually means working in a low-risk setting.


This is not to say that the job of an Aesthetic NP can’t be stressful. You’ll still have some running around to do and some difficult patients to treat. Our point is that work-related stress is probably going to be more manageable in a cosmetic clinic. 


You will rarely find yourself working in a hospital. It’s more than likely that you will find employment in a private clinic or a medical spa. 


This means that you will know exactly what to do with most patients. You won’t have a lot of surprises or emergencies in your day-to-day grind. 


We should also talk about salary. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary is $100,377 a year, with an average hourly wage of $48,00. You can compare this to the average national salary of an FNP, which is $105,898 (or $51 an hour), again via ZipRecruiter.


You might be taking a pay cut if you choose to go into aesthetic medicine, but for many people, it’s totally worth it. Besides, the salary mentioned above is just an average number. You could easily earn a lot more.


Another great thing about working as an Aesthetic NP is the possibility to open your own cosmetic practice (if you can do that in your state). There’s a growing demand for cosmetic procedures in the US, so it’s a great business idea for NPs.



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