Working in aesthetics is often seen as an attractive alternative to performing bedside care. Nurses burnt out on 12-hour shifts and unsafe working conditions are finding success in the burgeoning arena known as aesthetics. This can include skincare treatments, hydration clinics, and cosmetic procedures like injectables and microblading. Working in this industry can help nurses find better work-life balance and make more money for their time.
Danielle Maltby says she hit a wall in 2019 after working 12 years as a pediatric ICU nurse.
“I had hit that moment. I honestly couldn’t put another child in a body bag,” she said. “I needed to get out of the field or at least take a break from the hospital setting.”
She originally tried to break into aesthetics as a nurse injector, but she couldn’t find a place to get additional training. Registered nurses can only administer injectables while under the supervision of a medical director. However, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can do it without physician oversight. Maltby said she received three hours of injectable training, practicing on three people.
She could have started administering Botox and fillers under physician supervision but didn’t feel comfortable without more intensive training.
“I found one clinic that was willing to train and that was out of tons,” she said. “Everyone wants someone with experience. How do you get experience unless someone trains you? Or they weren’t hiring RNs; they wanted a nurse practitioner. So, it was really difficult.”
Maltby had been thinking about transitioning to aesthetics for years. Even before the pandemic, she heard stories from fellow nurses who wanted to make the jump for better hours, more pay, and less stress.
As more nurses pursue careers in aesthetics, critics say there is no universal training requirement for nurses performing injectables. And professionals in the aesthetics industry say there isn’t a clear path in terms of going from nursing school to aesthetics, which makes it difficult for aspiring providers to break in.
Without industry support, many providers have had to forge a path of their own.
Dr. Sarah Allen, founder and CEO of Skin Clique, paved her own way in the aesthetics industry. She now employees 250 NPs and physician assistants. She says she doesn’t have to recruit workers because nurses are so eager to join her practice. Employees receive up to six months of training via a program Allen created. They receive training on everything from chemical peels to injectables, dermal fillers, and more.
She remembers applying for jobs with little to no experience in the field. She felt unprepared and out of place.
“I tell people a lot of times that aesthetics is like the new tech,” Allen said. “Tech grew so fast that nobody could keep up with the regulation. Aesthetics is getting to be very similar.”
Skin Clique recently formed a partnership with Graham Healthcare Capital to improve the training process.
Allen decided to switch fields after experiencing severe burnout as a former nursing home medical director. She was devastated to lose 70 patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she decided to quit in October 2020. She found a place in aesthetics and hasn’t looked back since.
“I have found this part of medicine to be so joyful, lighthearted, but also really makes an impact on your patients and in their lives,” Allen said. “I tell people I won’t stop until everybody who wants that opportunity has it.”
However, the number of nurses leaving beside care may be slowing. Even though there is a lot of interest in leaving the field, Mark Phillips, chief nursing officer at Ascension Saint Thomas, said the nurses he works with are feeling more positive in recent months.
“While it is certainly true that some nurses are choosing to leave the profession or change how or where they work, many of the nurses I speak to seem [more] optimistic about their careers and the future than they did at earlier stages of the pandemic,” he said.
Research shows that the aesthetics industry has grown by more than 10% every year and is expected to grow by 12% to 14% over the next five years.
The country has seen a rapid increase in the number of wellness centers and medical spas in recent years, especially in and around urban areas. A startup known as Skin Body recently spent $1 million on new equipment for its new Nashville office.
“The pandemic did nothing but increase our business,” said Skin Body owner Tomi Beckemeyer. “I felt a little guilty actually, but people seeing themselves on Zoom — that’s a real thing. They started picking themselves apart.”
The clinic employs five nurses in Memphis and two more in Nashville – all who formerly worked in hospitals or doctor’s offices.
“I was one of the first aestheticians in Memphis to go to work for a physician, so I learned directly with nurses and physicians,” Beckemeyer said. “I’m all about rigorous training. They have to be very well trained to be able to operate these devices. My girls are, they’re very well trained and they get great results.”
Maltby said she was able to transition to aesthetics because of her personal connections, but she recognizes that a lot of nurses don’t have access to these resources.
“You get to help people feel better in their skin,” Maltby said. “Then you also get this artistic, creative side that so many nurses bring to their practice. Typically, you’re not working holidays, you’re not working weekends. You have a pretty nice nine-to-five job and you can go home and eat dinner at a normal time, you can go to bed at a normal time and live like a normal human.”