Girl Boss Q&A: Ask a Cosmetic Nurse
Nurses make a difference in people’s lives in many different ways. They’re the eyes, ears, and voice of healthcare, especially in a hospital setting, identifying and alerting doctors of critical situations and the holistic perspective to advocate for their patients. And cosmetic nurses are no different. Through the use of non-invasive, in-office treatments such as injectables and skin treatments, aesthetic nurses often assist plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists, providing pre-and post-operative care related to plastic surgery and delivering care to patients under the supervision of a physician. So, without further ado, to gain some raw and genuine insight into what it’s like day-to-day as a cosmetic nurse, keep reading for my interview with registered aesthetic nurse Serene Obagi.
What kind of nurse are you? What sort of patients do you see?
“I’m an aesthetic or cosmetic nurse. I see people with skin problems or problems with their appearance, people who are curious about enhancements that we can do to their face or body, and people who have been referred by friends who had gotten cosmetic work done. Everything from the face, butt, boobs… We have many older women who come for work on their hands (i.e., making them look younger) to give them filler there.
When it comes to patients in the clinic, do you see mostly women?
“Mostly women now. But as the years go on, men are coming in more. The number one thing men are doing is their jaw – they want accentuated jaws, like Superman. It’s pretty equal for men and women when it comes to acne treatment.”
How did you know you wanted to become a cosmetic nurse?
“Well, I’ve always wanted to become a cosmetic nurse. I was working as a medical assistant [MA] at a medical spa – and I already had my esthetician license – and I was watching the doctor do many things that I regretted not going for medical school for because I knew I’d be so good at them. Then I realized: wait, I don’t have to go to medical school to still do these things. I just had to put the work in, and once I finished, I could come back and learn about I wanted to do. Sure, when I was in nursing school and experienced the various departments, whether medical surgery, or the emergency room, or cardiology, I found many things to be interesting – especially OB and Pediatrics. But, even while I loved them, I knew I wasn’t going into that. My first goal was always to do aesthetics. “
While in nursing school, did you learn about aesthetics?
“No, unfortunately. We didn’t even talk about it in nursing school. The one second we went over the skin in nursing school, I, like, shined. But that was over pretty quickly. I think it’s because when you hear the words cosmetic or aesthetic, people automatically think of vanity. And it’s ingrained in our minds, perhaps way back from the Bible even, that vanity is bad.
Why has it taken until 2020 for people to say, “Hey, I got filler!” and be open about it? I think that as people become more and more lenient when it comes to religion, the normalization of aesthetic and cosmetic procedures will parallel. Like, if God is judging you, it’s not because you got lip injections. And it’s so different in other countries, like Korea. I had a Korean roommate back when I was in school, and she would tell me all about how it’s sort of unusual not to get any work done. It’s so different.”
Did any of your classmates in nursing school also want to do aesthetic nursing?
“I don’t recall anyone else wanting to do it. Maybe there was one girl, but I can’t remember.”
How did you prepare for the final exam (NCLEX)?
“The NCLEX was one of the hardest tests I’ve ever taken, and I couldn’t believe I passed. It’s a test that, if you get a question right, the next question is harder. Adaptive, they call it. So, if you’re going through the test and saying, oh, this is so easy, that’s probably a bad sign. So the fact that I was like, WTF is this question asking, I’ve never learned this… I knew I was doing okay.
And most of the questions were “select all that apply,” too, so say the correct answer is A, B, C, and E, and you select A, B, C, and D, they mark it as all wrong, and the options went from A until F sometimes. I know most people shut off at 75 questions because the test can go on until 200 or 300 questions. I had 111, and I literally thought it was a [angel] sign because I had seen 11:11 up until my test day. “
Is there anything during nursing school that you would have done differently?
“Oh, time management. Always. I had a system, and it still wasn’t enough. Or it was, but I don’t know why. I basically had no social life, it felt like. I even think I got my first gray hair. I managed my time where nursing school got completed, but everything else was on the back burner. Also, maybe, I wouldn’t have woken up so early every day, because now I can’t help it. Like, I still wake up at 5 am every day. Sometimes I had to get up that early for school, but waking up at 5 am as part of my system. I liked to study early in the morning and get it out of the way when my mind is the sharpest.”
What is your favorite and also least favorite part of being a cosmetic nurse?
“My favorite part is the fact that there’s so much that I can do to help the patients, and I have a lot of autonomy. You know, I can be a hospital nurse, I can be a nurse who works for an insurance company, or I can be an aesthetic nurse. I love that I can do all that. Nurses are so critical.
My least favorite part of being a cosmetic nurse – and I think most nurses would agree – is that I‘m limited as well. The fact that we nurses will always need another person to diagnose me even when I am sure of what it is myself. This is part of why I’m thinking about getting my Nurse Practitioner (NP) license because in California now, they have much more independence.
Another thing about being a nurse that is difficult is being the last in line to the patient give a drug. For example, say a pharmacy makes a mistake and sends the drug. The doctor orders the wrong drug, etc. Who’s the last person to administer the drug, and who should have checked, etc.? Pharmacy is off the hook; the doctor is off the hook, I’m the one to blame, legally, if I administer the wrong drug to the patient, even though it’s them who incorrectly ordered it. Like, it’s not the doctor’s fault that he wrote an extra 0; it’s the nurse’s fault for not calling and being like, “did you mean to write 100?” It’s so weird.“
Do you feel as though nursing school prepared you for the “reality” of the job?
“I have to say no. In my opinion, all nursing school does is make sure you are well-equipped enough, now, to at least work in a hospital, learn from whatever the hospital teaches you, and know how not to kill someone, and maybe, to save someone minimally. Some nursing schools may have more emphasis on technique, for example, but other than that, all nursing schools focus on interventions, NANDAS, side effects, and medications.”
Tell me the weirdest thing that has happened to you as a nurse.
“A guy was definitely touching himself under his bed and was like “ma’am, ma’am” and wanted me to change something that was unnecessary. I was like, “sir, if you can do that, you can change this yourself. There are definitely some perverted patients in hospitals. Also patients who we call “frequent flyers” because they always come back for shelter, food, and water.”
Do you feel supported by fellow nurses?
“Oh yeah. Nurses are always on each others’ side. Totally. And there’s a total “nurse way” to do things. Even once you go on to be an NP, for example, the core nurse in you still shines. Even with a coworker of mine – she’s an aesthetic NP – I always see her inner nurse come out. It’s like, once a nurse, always a nurse. I also feel like I’ve always been a nurse. I think there’s, like, a fine line between being maternal and being a nurse.“
What’s a typical day like for you?
“Running around making sure someone’s not bleeding out. Just kidding. I get the consents; register people on iPledge if they’re going on Accutane. see patients; I educate them, I administer mediation, I do extractions. I can do laser treatments. Sometimes, my coworker NP will sometimes ask me to be in the room because she’s injecting Botox and wants me to make sure there’s no bruise forming. One of my classmates’ typical day would be a 12-hour shift, with 4-5 patients you are responsible for, and you need to prioritize. “
Do you have favorite scrubs or shoes to wear at work?
“For scrubs, definitely Figs. As for shoes, I bought this Amazon pair that continues to surprise me with how comfortable and stylish they are. I got so many compliments on these shoes; everyone was asking where I got them from. It seems like now everyone I work with has purchased them for themselves too.”
Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again?
“Yes. I’m so proud of myself. When I went in, I did not know how hard it was going to be. But now that I’ve finished it, of course.“
As a nurse, is it possible to have time for yourself outside of your job?
“Yes, but I am trying to figure out how. Right now, I feel like I have no time for anyone or anything, but I am sure one day I will once I know how to balance.“
There you have it: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awesome of being a cosmetic nurse. I hope that this article gave you some personable inspiration and motivation to pursue aesthetic nursing or a career of similar nature. Of course, a huge thanks and shout out to Serene for her time, honesty, and information.
Leave your comments down below and DM Serene with any questions.
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(An incredible story about revolutionary self-taught nurse here!)