What Is a Plastic Surgery Nurse?

Cosmetic or aesthetic medicine is a specialty that focuses on improving the appearance of a part of the body. This can be accomplished using invasive (i.e. surgery, lasers, injections) or non-invasive (chemical peel, microdermabrasion, medication) procedures.

Plastic surgery nurses specialize in caring for patients who undergo cosmetic surgical procedures including:

  • Liposuction
  • Breast augmentation/reduction/reconstruction
  • Body lifts/contouring
  • Abdominoplasty
  • Face/neck lift
  • Hair transplant
  • May include gender reassignment procedures

Becoming a Plastic Surgery Nurse

Plastic surgery can be a rewarding field. Patients seeking changes in their appearance may be depressed or have low self-esteem. Nurses are often involved in pre-op and post-op care and witness a patient's transformation as they achieve the appearance they desire.

Plastic surgery is not only about "nip/tucks"- many plastic surgery cases are patients needing reconstructive surgery to remove cancers. For example, many breast cancer patients need reconstruction after a mastectomy, or patients with traumatic injuries may undergo procedures to reduce scarring. Plastic surgery nurses are there to help those patients resume a sense of normalcy after life-changing events.

Those interested in the field of plastic surgery should have a desire to help patients improve their perception of self and foster a positive body self-image. Nurses should be able to communicate in a non-judgmental and respectful manner, as body image can be a sensitive issue for patients.

What Are the Education Requirements for a Plastic Surgery Nurse?

Those interested in the field of plastic surgery should first pursue a nursing degree through a two or four-year university. Obtaining an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) is required. Some organizations and private medical offices prefer a BSN-prepared RN. Nurses are encouraged to check the requirements in their specialty of choice.

After completion of an accredited nursing program, successful completion of the NCLEX-RN is required for licensure.

Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

The Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB) offers certifications in the field of plastic surgery. The Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN) certification includes completing an application, reviewing a self-study textbook, and completing the examination process. Eligibility for certification includes the following:

  • Have a current RN license
  • Have a minimum of two years of plastic surgical nursing experience as an RN within the last three years
  • Have spent at least 1,000 practice hours in plastic surgical nursing during two of the last three years prior to applying for certification

The CPSN certification is valid for three years and can be renewed via continuing nursing education credits.

The PSNCB also offers a Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS) certification. The process is similar to the CPSN certification process. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Have a current RN license
  • Work with physician(s) that are board-certified in either Plastic/Aesthetic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, or Facial Plastic Surgery
  • Have a minimum of two years of nursing experience as an RN in one of the specialties listed above (as a staff nurse, or in an administrative role, teaching role, or researcher) within the prior three years
  • Have worked at least 1,000 practice hours within the specialties listed above in the prior two years
  • Have a supervising physician endorse the application

Certification is also valid for three years and can be renewed via continuing nursing education credits.

In addition to the certifications listed above, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), as well as sedation certification, may be required, depending on the organization.

Where Do Plastic Surgery Nurses Work?

Plastic surgery nurses can work in private medical offices, hospitals (operating room), and outpatient clinics. Specific outpatient clinics can include:

  • Dermatology
  • Head and Neck (ENT)
  • Outpatient surgery clinics

What Does a Plastic Surgery Nurse Do?

Plastic surgery nurses work alongside surgeons and support staff to assist patients in achieving their desired results. Specific duties include:

  • Screening patients for surgery
  • Reviewing medical and surgical history
  • Administering treatments such as chemical peels, Botox, or light and laser treatments
  • Preparing the procedure/operating room
  • Monitoring patients during and after procedures
  • Educating patients on specific procedures and what to expect before, during, and after
  • Following up with patients after procedures to ensure healing
  • Wound care/surgical site care

What Are the Roles & Duties of a Plastic Surgery Nurse?

Plastic surgery nurses have a multitude of duties and roles, as they are involved with patients before, during, and after surgery. Plastic surgery nurses are responsible for:

  • Collaborating with physicians regarding possible barriers to surgery
  • Educating patients and families on post-op expectations and healing
  • Providing support to patient and families while promoting a positive self-image
  • Providing a sensitive, non-biased, non-judgmental environment for patients undergoing cosmetic procedures
  • Remaining up to date with current cosmetic surgery standards of care and practice
  • Ensuring a safe, aseptic environment to avoid post-op infection/complications
  • Working with the entire care team to ensure physical, mental, and psychosocial needs are met

Plastic Surgery Nurse Salary & Employment

Plastic surgery is a competitive field of medicine. Many elective procedures are not a covered benefit with insurance and can be costly. This can be a benefit to nurses looking for a career opportunity in this field--providers are opening private practices and need nurses to assist.

While there is no data specifically for plastic surgery nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses, in general, is expected to grow 16% by 2024, and the median income is $68,450. Salary is dependent on city, state, degrees/certifications held, and organization of employment. As stated earlier, there are many cosmetic surgery clinics, many of which are a private practice. Therefore, competitive wages may be offered.

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