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Posted 19th Feb 2024

Switching Careers – Becoming an Aesthetic Nurse

TOP BOX Becoming an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Switching careers and becoming an aesthetic nurse: Paula O’Sullivan shares how she transitioned from the NHS to medical aesthetics.

When she’s not training students at Harley Academy, you can find aesthetics specialist Paula O’Sullivan, RGN, treating patients at her clinic in Woking, UK.

As one of our Level 7 injectables graduates and now a successful practitioner and mentor, Paula knows how daunting this change can be. She especially understands the challenges of juggling family life with aesthetics training.

We interviewed Paula about her career path and how she managed her time whilst becoming an aesthetic nurse, and now that she’s also a clinical trainer.

From NHS Nurse to Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Why Paula made the switch from NHS nurse to aesthetics practitioner

Before aesthetics, Paula was a clinical educator on the resuscitation team at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

“This was a position I had always aspired to and I loved it. It stemmed from spending many years looking after critically unwell children in the intensive care unit,” she tells us.

“I was always extremely fearful of patients deteriorating. So, instead of avoiding the fear, I chose to learn more and educate others on how to manage sick children promptly and effectively. It came with great satisfaction and pride; but, it often came with stress and fear too.

“Understandably, this role was emotionally draining, especially now I understand how precious children are being a mum of two. With this in mind, it was time to explore other areas of nursing. I wanted to remain clinical but have the flexibility to work around my busy family life. Having had a few treatments, I was very aware of aesthetic medicine.

“I was at a time in my life when I needed a new challenge and had a desire to learn new things. The world of aesthetic medicine met my needs.”

Fitting in aesthetics training as a parent

“I started my aesthetics career with a foundation day whilst juggling mum life with a 3-year-old and 9-month-old. I realised soon after my first baby that working with critically unwell children was going to be physically and emotionally straining.

“Thankfully, my husband was supportive of my decision. He’s always supported me to do the training I need to be successful in my field.

“As time went on, I had to increase childcare support to fit in the aesthetics training days and courses. These ranged from a one-day course to a 12-month commitment to my V300 and my Level 7 Diploma.

“Planning my time was key. Arranging childcare between myself, my husband and our parents allowed me to attend courses to expand my knowledge and experience,” Paula notes.

TOP BOX Becoming an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Managing my career as an aesthetic nurse practitioner

Having nailed a successful career in aesthetic medicine while running her own clinic, Paula explains how she manages it all.

“My clinical trainer position at Harley Academy means two days away from home 7 am-7 pm, including my commute. Those days I solely rely on my husband to cart the children to and from school.

“The rest of the week I see my patients in my private garden clinic in Woking. I tend to work 9:30 am-2:30 pm Wednesday, 9:30 am–4 pm Friday, and 9 am-1 pm Saturday.

“My 2024 resolution is to give myself a midweek day off to try and stay on top of business admin. I now close my clinic on Thursdays to accommodate this. If patient demand increases outside of these hours then I’ll look at increasing my clinic hours too!

“To effectively manage my time, I always finish patient notes and invoices by the end of each day. I do my invoicing directly through Xero so it keeps my books up to date,” Paula reports.

Outsourcing tasks for better time management

“Until recently I had the amazing help of a virtual assistant, Katie. Due to everything being automated, there was less of a need for her. Plus, I felt a little out of control with patient communication.

“Patients would contact Katie and she would send the query to me. I was always relying on her to have effective communication which felt like a huge responsibility,” Paula recalls.

“Katie historically managed my appointment diary. However, the system I use - Aesthetic Nurse Software - has an automated booking system. I felt like I was paying for a service that I could manage myself.

“Now I manage my business independently, apart from hiring a bookkeeper and accountant. Accounts are not my strong point, so a good bookkeeper and accountant are key for reducing stress and effectively managing my business.”

From NHS Nurse to Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Social media marketing for my aesthetics business

Then there's social media – this takes time, commitment, and patience! I have times when I am motivated and times when I’m not.

“I do see a direct correlation between posting regularly and an increase in bookings, so I try not to fall into the lack of motivation as it does affect business!”

Paula explains, “I've tried to outsource my social media in the past but, again, I felt like I was duplicating work. I would have to read through everything the Social Media Manager would do and authorise. I felt I may as well do it myself.”

“My biggest tip if you’re doing your own social media is to schedule your posts for the week ahead. I will try and do this on a Sunday evening and get all the posts done for the week ahead.”

Top tip! A lot of social media scheduling tools now have AI features built in. This allows you to write captions with ease by typing in a few words and letting the AI do the rest – saving you time!

Balancing life and work as a cosmetic nurse

Paula talks about how she juggles work with her personal life. She states, “Whilst all the business cogs are turning, I still have a young family and a house to look after.”

“I do have a cleaner and someone who does my ironing. My mum thinks I'm very privileged. However, I earn more money treating patients, so it makes sense to me. Plus she does a much better job than me!”

“Thankfully, the school offers extracurricular clubs, so on certain days the girls stay in school until 5 pm giving me an extra hour or so to treat patients.”

From NHS Nurse to Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Why I became an aesthetic nurse prescriber

Paula shares, “One of the best things I could have done to enhance my aesthetics career was taking the V300 [prescribing course].

“I studied at Oxford Brookes University and attended one day a week for six months. In addition, I had to complete around 96 practical hours with a designated assessor. My assessor was a GP and I learnt a lot from him and enjoyed the practical hours.

“The academic side and workload are tough and time-consuming. However, being a prescriber allows me to offer a safe and seamless aesthetics service to my patients. It’s something I recommend all non-prescribers do.”

The V300 prescribing course for aesthetic nurses

Did you know that all eligible Harley Academy Level 7 graduates have access to the V300 Prescribing Course at the University of West England?

Becoming a prescriber gives you the freedom as an aesthetic nurse to fully support and manage your patients. You’re able to take the V300 before or after you train with us in some places. However, we recommend getting your Level 7 first as that’s what most universities require as part of their course entry criteria.

Starting a career in aesthetics with a full plate/ Prioritising aesthetics training

Paula transitioned from the NHS to aesthetics, all while balancing her family life with training and starting her business. She has some words of wisdom for her fellow nurses considering the same move.

“Business growth takes time, so you shouldn’t expect a thriving client base straight after you have achieved your aesthetics qualification. I would say with considered time management, it’s doable to start your aesthetic training whilst working full-time in the NHS.

“As your client base increases, maybe you can reconsider your NHS hours to find a better work-life balance. It’s a snowball effect and it all begins with one patient. With good management of your patients, they will tell their friends and your business will begin to grow!”

Gold-standard aesthetics training, in your own time

As Paula has found, investing in yourself and your goals is a short-term commitment for long-term benefits!

At Harley Academy, we offer a number of aesthetic medicine training pathways to allow for flexible learning. Some people prefer to start with a short Foundation Training in Botox & Dermal Fillers course to get started.

Foundation trainees can then upgrade to our Level 7 in Botox & Dermal Fillers - an Ofqual-regulated and JCCP-approved, Master’s level course. Alternatively, you can start our Level 7 course straight away as the Foundation Training element is included.

Not only does our Level 7 help you to expand your medical knowledge and expertise, but it also offers flexibility. A number of the course elements include eLearning, remote video sessions and in-clinic mentoring can be booked in advance, to help you plan your schedule.

Whether you’re looking to supplement your income, start your own business or be more creative at the weekend, there’s an aesthetics training course for you!

If you’re looking to find out more about which Harley Academy courses will suit your needs, book a 15-minute consultation with our Career Advisors. They’re on hand daily to help you make the right decision for your aesthetics career.

All information correct at the time of publication

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