In our latest guest blog we take a look into the importance of training in the aesthetics industry, with Adam Colston, an Advanced Nurse Prescriber and recent Harley Academy Level 7 graduate who now runs his own thriving aesthetics business.
When I researched training in aesthetics for myself in early 2017, I discovered a startling disparity in the provision, structure and accreditation of courses available. There were hundreds of providers offering one or two day foundation or basic training courses, with the option of additional one day courses to ‘master’ more advanced procedures. However, these courses offered no accredited qualification on completion – merely a certificate of attendance and a guarantee to be accepted by one of the major insurance providers.
With so many courses to choose from, Harley Academy stood out because it provided an accredited, nationally recognised qualification in injectable aesthetic medicine. While it involved a bigger investment in terms of both time and money, it offered far more in return: more education, more experience, more supervision, more observation, more theory — to sum up, it was much more reassuring.
As I read about the course’s development, I realised that the fairly slow moving institutions designed to protect consumers and maintain standards were, at that time, only just beginning to look at the problem of poorly educated practitioners undertaking medical treatments that carry significant risks. Meanwhile, the course offered by the Harley Academy was already designed to meet a set of standards recommended in the Health Education England’s (HEE) 2015 ‘Qualification Requirements for Delivery of Cosmetic Procedures’.
Slow-moving institutions move slowly, but also inexorably. Given the direction regulatory concerns were already heading in, committing to a comprehensive, accredited qualification in aesthetic medicine that takes 6-18 months to complete seemed advantageous to me, compared to the alternative of attending a mix of one day courses.
No-one wants to start a business and then find out suddenly that they aren’t sufficiently qualified to practise anymore because of a change in standards introduced by a professional body or a new piece of legislation, but that’s not the only issue. In my view there is something reassuring about accessing an accredited course that has standards and processes devised by professionals who are much more highly educated than myself. It helps to ensure that, on completion of the course, students have all the tools necessary to be safe and competent practitioners.
I felt that Harley Academy’s offer exceeded all other providers of training and so I enrolled in the Level 7. I wanted to be ‘future-proofed’, as far as I could, and, more importantly, to be the best version of the practitioner I hoped to become. I couldn’t envisage that happening effectively with a handful of one day courses.
I completed the Foundation Day and the 142 hours of theoretical training fairly quickly and then moved to access the shadowing and practical mentorship scheme.
I attended clinics in London and spent days watching skilled aesthetics doctors complete medical and facial assessments of patients, identifying goals, planning care and delivering treatments to a high standard. This was an irreplaceable experience. Spending a day with a skilled aesthetics practitioner explaining what he or she is doing and why when faced with different patients was enlightening. But it wasn’t all about just observing the doctors treating their patients – that was only the first 20 cases. For the second 20 cases, they observed me completing the assessments, managing patients and carrying out treatments. It was extremely reassuring having an expert looking over your shoulder and correcting your technique.
Once I’d completed my 40 cases I moved into the exam cycle. Any course really worthy of its name should include assessments—not just certificates of attendance. The exam cycle has two parts: short answer questions (SAQs) and an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
The SAQs force students to seriously expand their thinking and knowledge base in order to formulate the correct answers for the questions, and completing them is a big commitment – it takes time and motivation, but is ultimately very achievable. The OSCE, which is a practical and oral test of theoretical knowledge and practical skills, seemed intimidating, but having completed the mentorship cases, online training and SAQs, I had been equipped with all the information and skills required to pass.
I run my own business in Exeter now, Aesthetics Exeter, and I know I feel more confident than some practitioners who have instead opted for a series of one day courses. I don’t feel I have gaps in my foundation knowledge – I know what I can safely do and I am secure in the underlying theory supporting my actions and choices. And my business is thriving!
Of course, the Level 7 in Injectables isn’t the end of training, it’s the foundation upon which you build – the real foundation.
Following completion of the Level 7 there is more to learn in this rapidly evolving specialty. I have recently completed a masterclass with Harley Academy in lower face and jawline treatments and this built upon the knowledge of the level 7 that I already had. The key is to keep learning, to keep up to date and to deliver the best care you can – that’s not only a good idea professionally, it’s also a regulatory responsibility for healthcare professionals.
The aesthetic landscape is changing. The prescribing element of Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance policies automatically covers prescribing as it forms part of the insured treatment, on the presumption that the practitioner holds the relevant qualifications. The policy requires that all consultations carried out are face to face; all forms of remote prescribing are excluded entirely. Hamilton Fraser’s Cosmetic policies will cover their clients to prescribe for third parties, on the basis that they are medical professionals. The implications of this will be widespread. All non-healthcare professionals, who currently provide aesthetic treatments, will no longer have legitimate access to the prescription-only medication used in aesthetics, both for treatments and for managing complications and emergencies.
I imagine healthcare professionals without accredited qualifications in aesthetics at the correct level could, at some point in the future, be on shaky insurance ground, or shaky registration ground. It’s not a big leap to see that.
With insurance companies like Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance and training providers such as Harley Academy raising standards for the industry, I know that I made the correct choice completing and passing the Level 7 in Injectable Aesthetic Medicine.
Advanced Nurse Prescriber
Harley Academy Level 7 Graduate
Creator of the first Level 7 qualification in injectables, Harley Academy is the UK's largest postgraduate training provider in aesthetic medicine for qualified health professionals (Doctors, Dentists & Nurses). Headquartered in London, they also have training centres across the UK including Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.