International Nurses Day: The future of aesthetic nursing in the UK


May 12 marks International Nurses Day. Chosen to coincide with the birthday of one of history’s most iconic nurses, Florence Nightingale, #NursesDay is a testament to the invaluable contributions of nurses worldwide.

The history of aesthetic nursing in the UK

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) website wrote:

“Nursing is a highly-skilled, safety-critical profession. You are experts. You are leaders. And this Nurses’ Day, we’ll be demonstrating the remarkable difference you make to so many lives each and every day. You dedicate yourselves to ensuring you deliver the best possible care to those you care for from the moment they enter the world to the moment they leave it and every stage in between. You deserve and need more recognition.”

It's this dedication to delivering the best possible care that has driven aesthetic nursing since the early days.

In the UK, nurses have been integral to the growth and development of the aesthetic medicine field, positioning the nation as a Global Leader in this domain. In our annual survey, nurses made up the largest group of respondents – 43.5% – compared to doctors (22.5%), dentists (13.1%), dental therapists (2.6%) and plastic surgeons(2.6%).

From establishing standards of practice to advocating for patient safety, UK aesthetic nurses have been at the forefront of shaping the industry.

More than 25 years ago, they recognised the need for competencies and standards of practice in an unregulated sector, and in 1998, a small group came together to create them. In 2000, they approached the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) for support, guidance and networking opportunities in aesthetic medicine, and in 2004, they gained forum status. Following reorganisation at the RCN in 2009, the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses was founded and has become the largest professional association for nurses carrying out medical aesthetic treatments in the UK.

It operates under a strict Code of Conduct to make sure patient safety across all treatments its members undertake.

Hamilton Fraser recently attended the BACN’s spring meeting, and we thought that to mark International Nurses Day, we would ask some of the UK’s leading nurses what they think the future of aesthetic nursing holds – from what they are most excited about to what they feel the biggest challenges are.

Aesthetic nursing: The challenges

Over the past few decades, aesthetic nursing has witnessed remarkable progress, marked by innovation and a commitment to excellence. However, amidst the optimism for the future, challenges persist, ranging from economic constraints to regulatory uncertainties.

Tracey Dennison, winner of the Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner of the Year 2023 award at the Aesthetic Medicine Awards and Director of East Riding Aesthetics and Wellness, Hull, says, “Current challenges hinge particularly around the economic crisis. Patients have to make critical choices about their treatments in line with affordability versus other financial commitments. This has become much more of an issue in the last 12 to 18 months directly in line with the current economic crisis. I believe empowering patients with the right information to optimise their treatments without increasing their costs is one way in which we can support our patients from a holistic rather than treatment-focused perspective. This really helps with building good therapeutic patient relationships and patient retention rates.”

Rosanne Joseph-Anthony, Founder and Clinical Director of Healthium Clinics, Henley-on-Thames, underscores the rapid advancements in aesthetic nursing over the past decade, with novel treatments and technologies revolutionising the field. However, this surge in demand has highlighted disparities in training standards. “Aesthetic nursing has come on tremendously in the last decade alone, with novel treatments and devices being debuted at a rate never seen before”, she says. “I am thrilled to see what new technologies will emerge in the world of aesthetics and how these will change the landscape for patients looking for ground-breaking cosmetic treatments. However, the growing demand for procedures has created imbalances in the level of training provided for these services.

“New legislation for regulations as part of the JCCP's 10-point plan in aesthetic nursing will continue to be introduced in the coming year, and it will be of great interest for the sector to see how this impacts the training in academies and the standard of aesthetics care from licensed practitioners moving forward. We also hope to see more research-backed innovation from affiliated partners, alongside the expansion and development of resources surrounding invasive procedures for patients, ensuring that patients and their safety remain the core focus of the field.”

Similarly, Frances Turner Traill, Founder of FTT Skin Clinics, Glasgow and Inverness, raises concerns about the ambiguity surrounding the classification of aesthetic nursing within the broader healthcare framework. Clarifying whether aesthetic nursing falls under medical practice or beauty services is crucial for establishing regulatory clarity and ensuring uniform standards across regions. She says. “The current challenges are political but do need prompt addressing. It is a clear decision on whether aesthetics nursing is a branch of medicine and therefore not vatable as a beauty treatment.  In Scotland, we are required to work within a Health Improvement Scotland-registered and inspected clinic with all the standards that requires. Yet another government department perceives our services as a vatable beauty service, not an aesthetic medicine specialty. That is indeed a challenge for aesthetic nurses to navigate.”

It is recognition that Piroska Cavell, Medical Director of Clinic Sese, also feels is needed, highlighting that, despite possessing extensive clinical expertise and patient-centred skills, nurses often grapple with imposter syndrome and institutional biases.

“It can be hard for nurses and midwives to shake off ingrained work-based cultural habits of feeling inadequate or not as qualified as a doctor. It is so important that nurses and midwives work on losing this ‘imposter syndrome’. Most nurses have excellent people skills, are well-versed in dealing with patients and managing their expectations, and are excellent communicators. Nurses and midwives have the opportunity to develop these skills further in aesthetics, and this is key, in addition to the clinical skills needed to grow and maintain a client base. Joining a network or support group is a great way to overcome these challenges, whether formal, such as the BACN or informal, such as the Nurses Network. Knowing others also face these challenges can be transformative.”

Susan Langridge – Clinical Director at Chelsea Medical and Aesthetic Clinic agrees. She adds, “There are a lot of very, very talented nurses out there that are very, very knowledgeable, but because we don't have that doctor title, we’re quite often overlooked, and I would love to see nurses empowered more, not just within the UK, but internationally as well, be recognised for what they can achieve.”

The future

Amidst these challenges, aesthetic nursing in the future has a lot to look forward to.

Dennison anticipates exciting developments in regenerative aesthetic medicine, aligning with a holistic approach to patient care. She says, “I think it’s a really exciting time. There are so many emerging technologies and developments, particularly in the regenerative aesthetic space. I am very much into looking after patients' holistic health, which fits perfectly with my ethos and approach. Functional and lifestyle medicine is becoming much more prevalent as a fundamental part of medical aesthetic care, and it is definitely an area to watch!”

Turner Traill echoes this sentiment, emphasising the integration of regenerative medicine principles into aesthetic nursing practice. “What excites me for the future is aesthetics nursing is levelling up to fold in regenerative medicine now, which fits in beautifully with the core principles of nursing, that is, treating patients holistically resulting in beautiful, natural, long-lasting results”, she says.

Cavell envisions a future where nurses assume leadership roles as key opinion leaders and contributors to industry publications, signalling a shift towards greater recognition and influence. She says, “Looking forward, we can now see more and more nurses extending their learning and, like myself, holding higher formal aesthetic qualifications. There are now greater opportunities for nurses and midwives to become KOLs for aesthetic companies, speakers and contributing authors to respected industry publications. The future certainly looks positive for nurses and midwives moving into aesthetic medicine.”

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