Plastic Surgical Nurse Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a plastic surgical nurse's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a plastic surgical nurse.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Plastic Surgery Nurse

Licensed vocational nurses (also known as licensed practical nurses) or registered nurses can both specialize in plastic or reconstructive surgery. Read the pros and cons to see if this is the right field for you.

Pros of Being a Plastic Surgery Nurse
Can get started with only an LPN or LVN credential*
Jobs for registered nurses expected to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024*
Jobs for LPN and LVN expected to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024*
Full-time work is the norm, with overtime not unusual*

Cons of Being a Plastic Surgery Nurse
Potential for exposure to infectious material*
Physical strain or injury may be sustained on the job*
Licensure is necessary by passing an exam in all 50 states*
May have to work nights, evenings, weekends or holidays*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description

A plastic surgery nurse can spend his or her day providing hands-on patient care, doing administrative work or fulfilling a combination of both. You can find work in hospitals, clinics and private physician's offices. Hands-on care can include operating medical equipment, carrying out physician's orders for treatments (including administering medications), assisting the physician with tests and procedures and assisting the patient with acts of hygiene. Additionally, nurses are usually called upon to educate the patient about procedures, follow-up care and any other information regarding their health that the physician deems appropriate.

The administrative work for a plastic surgical nurse can vary depending upon the environment he or she works in. It can include documenting information about the patient for medical records, making arrangements for follow-up care, assisting with billing or insurance matters and preparing discharge paperwork.

Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed an annual mean wage of about $69,790 for registered nurses (RN) as of 2014. For licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN), the mean annual wage was about $43,420 for that same year. Both occupations are expected to grow significantly faster than the national average, 16% for RNs and 16% for LPNs over the years of 2014-2024, making nursing in any field a fairly lucrative prospect.

Education and Training Requirements

The first step in becoming a plastic surgery nurse is to obtain your nursing education and license. For LPNs and LVNs, nursing school is about a year in length and combines class work with hands-on experiences. Once schooling is complete, the graduate then applies first to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and then to take their state's licensure exam if necessary. Registered nurses hold an associate, bachelor or master's degree. In addition to nurse training, they partake in classes for math, science and liberal arts. Registered nurses also have to pass the NCLEX and state licensure exams.

The next step is to gain experience and begin to focus on the niche field of plastic surgery. Because plastic surgery is a subspecialty of surgery, the American Nurse Association suggests that aspiring plastic surgery nurses gain experience in medical/surgical nursing first.

Top Skills for Plastic Surgery Nurses

According to the BLS, nurses must be able to demonstrate compassion, good speaking and listening skills, the ability to think critically and strong organizational skills. They also need to be emotionally stable. Job postings and professional organizations like the American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses emphasize the need for solid preoperative and postoperative nursing skills for those wishing to work as a plastic surgical nurse.

Postings from Real Employers

Hospitals, clinics and private doctors' offices looking for plastic surgery nurses show a strong preference for those candidates with experience in surgery, good organizational skills and those who are good at multitasking. Below are snapshots of jobs available for plastics surgery nurses as of May 2012.

  • A North Carolina spa seeks an RN to assist with preoperative and postoperative care, as well as administrative tasks. The candidate should have the ability to multitask while staying detail-oriented. They would prefer someone with surgical experience.
  • A Texas cosmetic surgery center seeks an RN. Part-time work (about 20 hours or less per week) includes working in the recovery room with patients as well as assisting in the operating room.
  • A New York cosmetic surgery practice seeks a nurse to provide preoperative and postoperative care. This person should also be able to educate patients about the procedure. Job candidates can hold either an RN or an LPN license. This is an entry-level position, but the employer expects the incumbent to attend trainings and read professional journals related to this specialty.

How Can I Stand Out?

Get Certified

For LPN/LVNs or RNs with an undergraduate degree, certification in plastic surgery might be a good way to distinguish yourself from your peers. The American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses offers a voluntary, specialized certification to nurses who have had some experience in the field. The American Nurse Association also offers certification in various subspecialties, including medical/surgical nursing. Although not specific to plastic or reconstructive surgery, this credential signifies a level of competence in the field of surgical nursing.

These professional organizations also offer their members continuing education opportunities in the fields of plastic surgery and medical/surgical nursing. Staying on top of the latest innovations and technologies used in plastic and reconstructive surgery may give you an edge in an employment interview.

Alternative Career Paths

The field of plastic surgery nursing may not be right for you, but there are similar jobs available. Here are a few career options within the medical field with comparable salaries and good job growth prospects.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists provide preventive dental care services, clean teeth and educate patients on the importance of good dental and oral health. Working primarily in dentist's offices, hygienists may also take x-rays and apply sealants and fluoride treatments. An associate degree is typically required to enter the profession; licensure is also a requirement. This field has an anticipated growth rate of 38% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The same source reported that the median salary for this profession as of 2011 was around $69,000.

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists provide radiation treatments to cancer patients. Working as part of an oncology team, radiation therapists ensure the patient understands the prescribed treatment, operate the equipment that administers the radiation, monitor the patient throughout and keep records of the procedure and how the patient responded. An associate degree is the entry-level degree for this field. The BLS reports an anticipated 20% job growth from 2010-2020. Radiation therapists earned a median annual salary of about $77,000 in 2011.

Diagnostic and Medical Sonographer

Sonographers use diagnostic equipment to help physicians and surgeons see the inside of the human body. Typically working in hospitals and clinics, sonographers work with a variety of different patients from expectant mothers to preoperative patients. An associate degree is needed for entry into this field, and licensure requirements vary by state. The BLS stated that most employers prefer a sonographer who is certified. Workers in this field had a median salary of about $65,000 as of 2011. The BLS expected these jobs to grow by 44% between 2010 and 2020.

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Kaplan University

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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Northcentral University

  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education

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Virginia College

  • Associate: Surgical Technology

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Brightwood College

  • Nurse Assistant

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

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Utica College

  • RN to BSN

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University of the Southwest

  • MBA Healthcare Administration

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