How Do I Become a Certified Plastic Surgery Nurse?

Explore the career requirements for plastic surgical nurses. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Plastic Surgery Nurse?

As a certified plastic surgery nurse, you would assist plastic surgeons in the operating room and provide both pre- and post-operative patient care. For instance, before the procedure, you would consult with the patient about their medical history, allergies and current medications, in order to help the surgeon develop a safe and effective treatment plan. During the procedure, you would be responsible for monitoring the patient and operating medical equipment used for plastic surgery. Afterward, you would counsel the patient on recovery strategies and follow up to make sure that the process is going smoothly.

The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a certified plastic surgery nurse.

Degree Required Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Monitor patient status and vital signs and report status to surgeon; administer medication; assist surgeon during procedures; maintain patient records
Licensure and Certification All states require RNs to be licensed; the Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN) credential is offered by American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses (ASPSN)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all RNs*
Median Salary (2016) $65,387for all surgical nurses**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Type of Degree Do I Need to Work as a Certified Plastic Surgery Nurse?

The Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB) doesn't require you to follow a specific educational path in order to gain certification and work as a plastic surgery nurse. However, you do need to complete a formal training program to become a registered nurse (RN), and you need to work as an RN before you can specialize in plastic surgery nursing.

Most nurses complete a bachelor's or associate degree program in nursing, but approved hospital-administered diploma programs can also qualify you to become an RN. A diploma program generally takes about three years to complete, whereas an associate degree program takes 2-3 years. A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) typically requires four years of full-time study to earn, but it's also likely to provide you with the best opportunities for advancement.

Degree programs that focus specifically on plastic surgery nursing aren't generally available; instead, you'll likely train for this specialty on the job. Courses in a general nursing program may touch upon this specialty, however. Nurse practitioners can also specialize in plastic surgery nursing. You need at least a master's degree to become a nurse practitioner or any other type of advanced practice nurse. However, you don't need a master's degree or a nurse practitioner license to gain certification from PSNCB.

What Are the Licensing Requirements?

You need a license to become a RN in all 50 states. In addition to completing an approved nursing program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to earn your RN license. Check with the board of nursing for your state to determine any other licensure requirements, which can be different from state to state. You may need to complete continuing education to maintain your license or fulfill employer requirements.

What Certifications Are Available?

Many organizations and certifying bodies award credentials for various nursing specialties. The primary certification available for plastic surgery nursing is the Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN) credential, which is awarded by the PSNCB (https://aspsn.org). In order to apply for this certification, you need a current registered nurse (RN) license and at least two years of experience in plastic surgery nursing as a RN. You must also complete an application and pass an exam to earn your CPSN. To prepare for the CPSN exam, you might consider studying the third edition of the Core Curriculum for Plastic Surgical Nursing or taking a brief certification preparation course.

What Might My Job Duties Be?

In general, RNs are responsible for treating and educating patients and providing emotional support to patients' families. Your job duties as a RN may include performing diagnostic tests, operating medical machinery, administering medications and otherwise caring for patients. Assisting with post-surgery patient rehabilitation could also be one of your job duties. You might specialize in a particular population or area of expertise, such as skin care, burns, adult or pediatric reconstruction, aesthetics or craniofacial surgery.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Aside from plastic surgery, there are many other specialization options for RNs. For instance, jobs are available for critical care nurses, rehabilitation nurses, neonatology nurses, genetics nurses and addiction nurses, among others. It is also possible to work as a generalist in hospital or family doctor's office. The basic training for all of these RNs is the same, although they may look for professional certifications from different organizations, depending on their area of expertise. Alternatively, RNs who wish to move up in the field may choose to become advanced practice nurses. An advanced practice nursing option for individuals who are interested in assisting with surgery is a job as a nurse anesthetist, who administer anesthesia during procedures and offer pre- and post-operative patient care. To work as a nurse anesthetist, it is necessary to earn a master's degree and pass a licensure exam.

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