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What does an aesthetic nurse do?

Published on: 14 Dec 2022

Is an aesthetic nurse the right job for you? Understand the opportunities this job can offer nurses, as an additional branch to their existing career.

What does an aesthetic nurse do

An aesthetic nurse, also known as a cosmetic nurse, provides cosmetic treatments intended to improve clients’ appearance and tackle signs of ageing.

Popular procedures include injections of botox, which relaxes muscles to smooth out lines and wrinkles in the face, and dermal fillers, which are injected into the face and lips to plump them up. There are a wide range of other treatments, including chemical peels, which stimulate the growth of new skin cells, and laser hair removal.

How many aesthetic nurses are there?

It is difficult to determine how many registered nurses work in the field, because cosmetic treatments are not regulated. The British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN) says insurance statistics suggest that more than 4,000 nurses are involved in the industry, with nurses providing 54% of dermal filler treatments and 52% of botox treatments.

Where do aesthetic nurses work?

There is a lot of flexibility in aesthetic nursing, which is often the appeal for nurses who go into this area.

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Nurses can be employed by larger aesthetic clinics but are also often self-employed, working out of their own clinics or homes or in clients’ homes.
For some nurses, aesthetic nursing is their main job, while for others they undertake this work in addition to another nursing role.

BACN board member Lisa Feliz is a nurse practitioner and runs her own high street clinic in Bournemouth, called Clinic Visjeune. She moved into aesthetics after needing a more flexible career option when her son developed a long-term health condition.

‘I had worked as a nurse, midwife and health visitor, but when my son became unwell I needed to be there for him and that can be hard in an NHS role,’ she says.

‘Aesthetics has let me do that. I could be with him if he was in hospital, and I set up a space for him in my clinic if he couldn’t go to school.’

What kind of training should nurses do for this role?

There is a wide range of training for aesthetic practitioners provided by a host of providers, including universities and higher education colleges, private companies, expert individuals and insurers, according to the BACN.
Training usually consists of a one-day course for each treatment offered. Prices vary, but on average a nurse should expect to pay £700 per day, the association says.

While there are excellent training programmes in aesthetics, there are also a myriad of highly dubious providers offering everything from one-day courses to level 7 qualifications, the organisation warns.

The association does not recommend any particular providers or programmes but says it is ‘inundated’ with requests from nurses about where they should train. It has published advice on its website, including the kind of questions that nurses should be asking to check course credentials.

The BACN is also publishing a career framework for aesthetic nurses, which, once completed this autumn, should help nurses look at training needs and programmes linked to these competences.

‘Training is such a minefield and it is so hard for a nurse to know where to train,’ says Ms Feliz. ‘If a course is cheaper than normal, then I would be suspicious. Some nurses who have just qualified and with minimal experience are setting up training schools as they see it as a fast buck.’

What skills can help nurses planning to work in this field?

The BACN advocates gaining at least three years of general adult nursing experience before embarking on a career in aesthetic nursing, to allow you to develop your skills and a firm foundation in nursing.

Working as a surgical nurse is an excellent pathway for those planning to specialise in aesthetic nursing, the organisation suggests.

What if I am not a nurse prescriber?

Nurses who cannot prescribe will need to establish a link with a prescriber to access prescription-only medications, including botox. This could be another nurse, doctor, dentist or pharmacist.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) recommends that ‘face-to-face consultations take place in the cosmetic context before prescriptions are issued’.

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When the prescription is issued, the nurse can then administer the botox at a time that works for them and the client.

Should an aesthetic nurse be insured?

As set out by the NMC code, all nurses need indemnity insurance to cover their work.

Self-employed nurses will need to arrange their cover directly through a commercial provider. The NMC says it is ‘important that you understand the terms of your insurance policy’.

The BACN says that nurses also need public liability insurance. Some insurance companies provide specialist cosmetic insurance services to health professionals.

What is the pay like?

This varies considerably, depending on what a nurse offers, how much they charge, how often they work and whether they rent space to do their work.

Ms Feliz says that nurses considering going into the field should bear in mind that start-up costs, including training and equipment, are considerable, and that it can take time to build up clients.

‘Nurses often haven’t run a business, and that can be the hardest part,’ she says. ‘The overheads are quite high, especially if you hire space to practise, and good quality botox and other drugs are expensive.

‘While it is easy to get into aesthetic nursing, it is not always easy to make it a successful business.’

Are there voluntary registers?

Save Face is a national register that nurses can pay to join that is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority and recognised by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Care Quality Commission.
It checks that practitioners are meeting a set of standards, including that they are a registered nurse or midwife.

The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) is a new not-for-profit organisation that provides voluntary regulation for practitioners in the field.
The BACN website allows members of the public to search for practitioners in their area who operate under the association’s code of conduct and are qualified and registered nurses. Its code of conduct prohibits botox parties and carrying out treatments in a patient’s home.

Should I work as an aesthetic nurse?

There are challenges working in an unregulated industry where nurses can be competing with unscrupulous and poorly trained competitors.
But the nurses who spoke to Nursing Standard were passionate about their work.

‘The people I work with are lovely and my business is thriving,’ says Ms Feliz. ‘I love my job – it has given me a flexibility I never had in the NHS and I earn a good income.’

Erin Dean is a health journalist

This is an abridged version of the article What does an aesthetic nurse do and how do I become one? which was first published in Nursing Standard 

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard