Choosing a career path in the nursing field is more than just looking at specialty areas and finding a job at the local hospital (although both of those courses of action are terrific choices!). Nursing is a diverse field with a seemingly infinite number of options for where and how to work and who to work with.

Today, we have the pleasure of learning a little about aesthetic nursing from Ashley Lankford, RN, BSN, MSN-C. Ashley works at the Gravity Medical Spa in Orange County, California, a facility offering “the latest skin care and anti-aging procedures.” We asked Ashley to share a little about aesthetic nursing and her personal experience with it, and this is what she said.

Ashley, what is aesthetic nursing?

The common duties of an aesthetic nurse can vary depending on the practice. They often involve, but are not limited to: dermal filler injections, neurotoxin (Botox) injections, laser hair removal, photofacials, microneedling, and non-surgical body contouring (Coolsculpting). Our med spa is equipped with an operating room (OR) so I am also able to assist in the OR as a circulating and recovery nurse as needed.

How did you choose this field?

I worked as a member of an Inpatient Surgical/Trauma/Oncology unit in a hospital setting for over four years. It was a hard transition because I really loved my patients and coworkers, but I knew it was not a permanent fit for me. The high stress environment and emotional roller coaster that comes with working in acute care began to wear me down, and I felt like I needed a positive change in my life. I always felt drawn to aesthetic nursing, but after a couple not-so-great experiences with previous med spa employers I began to think maybe it wasn’t for me. I encountered physicians who wanted to throw me into procedures that I had not been properly trained to perform and cut corners by hiring medical assistants to perform RN duties in order to save money. As much as I wanted to be in aesthetics I could not, in good conscience, risk my license and my patients’ safety by committing to work in those practices. I wanted a safe place to work, not a place that only cared about the bottom line.

Eventually, I was ultimately lucky enough to find my current employer. The physician I currently work for, Dr. Boudreaux, is a sensitive, caring physician who is driven and passionate about her business. I respect that she will turn away a sale in a heartbeat if it’s not in her patient’s best interest. She’s a great mentor, and it was so refreshing to finally meet someone I was excited to learn from. After meeting her and her staff I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

What education and certification(s) were required for you to go into it?

In California, to perform invasive aesthetic procedures such as injections, fillers, and operate lasers, a valid RN license is necessary. I have taken private aesthetic/injectable training courses and undergone one-on-one training with my supervising physician.

Where did you go to school?

I completed my prerequisite courses at Mount San Antonio College and transferred to California State University Long Beach (CSULB) where I received my bachelor’s in nursing. I worked in the hospital setting for two years before I went back for my master’s degree at CSULB. I recently passed my AANP Family Nurse Practitioner state certification exam (woohoo!), and I will be receiving my master’s degree this December.

What are your favorite things about your work?

Aesthetic nursing is quite a unique position. I love that I get to work in an environment that inspires positivity and artistry. It is an ever-changing field that will continue to fuel my passion for learning. It allows me to fulfill my creative side while still using my clinical judgment. It’s a great feeling to build trust with my patients and build long-lasting relationships with them. I absolutely love making my patients feel beautiful and doing whatever I can to help them boost their confidence and achieve their goals.

What advice would you give others considering this field?

I would recommend nurses interested in aesthetics to be tenacious; it can be difficult to get your foot in the door, and even more difficult to get your foot in the “right” door. Nowadays, there are a lot of medical spas that pop up and are eager to hire nurses to basically run the place, but that should be a huge red flag. It’s important to choose a reputable practice and be aware of the legal mandates in your practicing state. In CA, the Good Faith Exam requires a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant to examine the patient before performing certain procedures (e.g. Botox, filler, etc). A nurse performing these treatments without the proper medical clearance by an advanced practice clinician is essentially breaking the law. Unfortunately, there are many medical spas that operate this way and this was one piece of advice I wish I had when I started looking for a job in aesthetics. The bottom line is that it is your license that you worked very hard for, and you do not want to risk losing it.

It took me a while to find the right medical spa to work for, one that would provide the appropriate training with established safe methods of practice – it was definitely worth the wait!

We’re grateful to Ashley for sharing her story in our Careers in Nursing series of profiles of nurses following different career paths. Do you know someone whose career in nursing belongs in this series? Let us know in the comments!

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