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Girl Boss Q&A: Ask a Cosmetic Nurse

By Posted on 0 Comments 8 min read 43 views

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.

Why has it taken until 2020 for people to say, “Hey, I got filler!” and be open about it?Like, if God is judging you, it’s not because you got lip injections.

Serene Obagi, RN
Work #selfie

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.”

gratitude message for nurses with red hearts
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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.

Liked this article? Stick around – more #GirlBoss Q&A’s are coming soon.

(An incredible story about revolutionary self-taught nurse here!)

Sister Kenny: A Forgotten Medical Hero

By Posted on 0 Comments 5 min read 25 views

It’s time for a #GirlBoss story – one about an incredible self-trained nurse who discovered a new, less-invasive treatment for Polio around the time of WW1: Sister Kenny

But, before starting this inspiring story, let’s begin with a refresher of Polio for those who need a reminder:

Polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease that spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis. The disease caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis a year in the U.S. It was the most feared disease of the 20th century that became prevalent exponentially around the time of WW1.

A child suffering from Infantile Paralysis learns to walk with the aid of a special support, 1947.
(George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Fortunately, a vaccine was invented and administered in the 1960s. And since then, there has been a 90% reduction in the number of Polio cases worldwide. And no cases of Polio in the U.S. since the 1980s.

With that said, read on for the incredible story of Elizabeth Kenny.

Born in Australia in 1880, Ms. Kenny was a self-taught nurse in rural Australia. She portrayed immense skill in her job and was adored by most of those in her care. Once WW1 began, she worked as a British army nurse on troopships.

(Due to her exemplary work on these ships, she earned the title of ‘Sister” for her service. Thus, contrary to popular belief, Ms. Kenny was not, in fact, a nun.)

Sister Elizabeth Kenny

Around the time of WW1, Polio was rising around the world. Most of its victims were children and young adults. Severe cases meant fever and body aches that progressed to varying degrees of paralysis in just hours to days.

5-10% of paralyzed polio victims died, and as many as 50% suffered from persistent, partial paralysis.

The conventional treatment at the time, advocated by doctors and physical therapists, was immobilization. Polio victims were given splints or casts to restrict the affected limbs’ movement and prevent further deformity.

Child in a double Thomas splint with the head positioned with ‘blinkers’. Picture: Royal Children’s Hospital Archives

One night, Ms. Kenny was called to care for a child whose symptoms included contorted limbs and a stiffly curved spine. As a self-taught nurse who practiced most of her career in a rural Australian village, Ms. Kenny had not encountered such symptoms before. She sent a telegraph to her friend Dr. McDonnell, who lived in a nearby Australian community, for a diagnosis and guidance. The diagnosis of Polio was made by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brack via Dr. McDonnell, who, in his telegram reply, told Kenny to treat the symptoms as best she could. He didn’t provide her with any further direction.

Thus, in doing so, Sister Kenny began wrapping the child’s stiff limbs in hot, woolen sheets, hoping to relieve what she called ‘spasms.’ She sighed with relief when the treatment seemed to work: the child’s limbs straightened. Yet, she soon discovered that the child could not move his legs. She assumed that the child’s muscles have forgotten how to move on their own. In an attempt to ‘re-educate’ them, she began gently massaging and exercising the child’s paralyzed muscles, enabling passive movement. She also guided him with active coordination. Soon, the child benefitted from her treatment and achieved a miraculous, full recovery.

Sister Kenny demonstrates her revolutionary treatment for infantile paralysis.

After this patient encounter, she learned of five other similar cases in her town and administered the same technique to each diseased child. Almost inexplicably, they all recovered to the same extent as the first child. Kenny was able to cure all her cases to the point of the children being able to walk unaided.

Ironically, Sister Kenny was unaware of her immense discovery. It was not until she decided to visit her friend Dr. McDonnell that she learned about the recent Polio outbreak and its ‘proper’ treatment. Polio victims were generally treated by immobilization of the affected muscles, which requires splints, braces, and aids to assist in walking.

Ms. Kenny was shocked. She informed her friend of the six Polio-infected children that she had treated to full recovery and how she did so by mobilizing their limbs, not immobilizing them.

Elizabeth Kenny Papers, Minnesota Historical Society

Of course, in realizing what Ms. Kenny has accomplished, Dr. McDonnell immediately takes her to see a colleague of his – an orthopedic specialist named Dr. Brack – at a local hospital.

When Brack hears her story, he quickly disregarded it as nonsense, fiction, impossible. He claimed that the children that she ‘cured’ must not have been suffering from Polio in the first place. Dr. Brack refuses to allow Elizabeth to demonstrate or treat acute cases in his hospital to fear the patients’ safety and well-being.

As Elizabeth begins to be convinced by Dr. McDonnell that she has discovered a new, more effective treatment for Polio, she begins to butt heads with Dr. Brack. Brack is convinced that she is a quack, primarily because she is not a physician, let alone not one specializing in orthopedics. Dr. Brack ultimately convinced the same to the entire orthopedics community in Australia and continued to be ridiculed.
Despite this, Sister Kenny fought back. She opened up her clinic to gain notoriety and further prove her point.

Elizabeth Kenny lecturing a group of physicians in a corridor of the Minneapolis General Hospital in 1942. Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Ms. Kenny’s legacy still lives on. Not only was she a nurse questioning physicians’ authority, but she was also a woman – and a very outspoken one, with no problem challenging the overwhelmingly male medical profession. But most importantly, in my opinion, it was Ms. Kenny’s fierce adherence to what was observed at the bedside that holds the most relevance today.

She thought that she could see and feel muscles improve as she ministered to her patients. She saw her patients recover at rates she believed were much higher than those treated conservatively. Who needed clinical trials when the proof was right in front of her? Her doctor-friend wrote, “the empirical evidence embodied in her patients’ recovery proved her therapy worked.”

Elizabeth Kenny, a self-trained nurse, successfully treated polio with strengthening and flexibility exercises. Minneapolis’ Kenny neighborhood is named after her. September 1940. Courtesy of the Minneapolis Star

Was Ms. Kenny correct? It is debatable. Her emphasis on early mobilization has come to be a mainstay of polio treatment and physical therapy more broadly. Yet, some of her claims about the nature of the disease and how patients recovered were eventually proved wrong. And the successful development of a polio vaccine in the 1950s made these debates much less pressing.

Yet, in an era of evidence-based medicine and reliance on large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of patients, her emphasis on bedside clinical observation flourishes. Ms. Kenny once wrote, “[her opponents] have eyes, but they see not.”

For more #GirlBoss stories, check out this page.