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Plastic Surgery Nurse Career Overview

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Plastic surgery nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who assist with cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedures. They provide perioperative and postoperative care, ensuring that patients recover safely from these procedures.

Plastic Surgery Nurse Career in Brief

adn or bsn required
certification optional


People undergo plastic surgery for many reasons. In some cases, reconstructive care helps patients recover from serious illnesses or injuries, like breast cancer or burn accidents. Other individuals wish to change an aspect of their appearance for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes.

Plastic surgery nurses assist the surgeons who carry out these procedures. These nurses may also assess patients before surgery, provide assistance in the operating room, or administer postoperative care. Some may even carry out nonsurgical procedures themselves.

Career Traits
  • Patient assessment and safety
  • Knowledge of reconstructive and aesthetic surgery
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills

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Where Do Plastic Surgery Nurses Work?

Plastic surgery nurses work in many different settings, including private medical offices, hospital operating rooms, and outpatient clinics.

Private Surgeon’s Clinics
Plastic surgery nurses educate patients on what to expect from the operation, monitor patients during surgery, and follow up with patients after procedures.
Hospital Operating Rooms
Plastic surgery nurses sterilize and prepare operating rooms; assess patients’ vital signs before, during, and after surgery; and dress wounds after procedures.
Outpatient Clinics
Plastic surgery nurses assess patients before consultation and surgery, provide information about treatments, and assist surgeons during procedures.

Is Plastic Surgery Nursing Right for Me?

It is important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of any career, so that you can be better prepared whichever path you choose. Consider the following pros and cons.

Advantages to Becoming a Plastic Surgery Nurse

  • Leads to high job satisfaction as many feel they are positively changing patients’ lives — whether through reconstructive surgery due to injury or cosmetic treatments
  • Possibility of flexible hours or working a 9-5 schedule
  • High earning potential as the mean salary for RNs surpassed $75,000 in 2020 and some can earn over $100,000

Disadvantages to Becoming a Plastic Surgery Nurse

  • Can be more stressful due to invasive surgical procedures
  • Physically demanding at times when assisting patients or working with certain medical equipment
  • Potentially high patient load in some offices

How to Become a Plastic Surgery Nurse

Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN)
Four-year bachelor’s degrees and two-year associate degrees prepare students for the nursing profession through didactic lectures, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations.

Pass the NCLEX-RN to qualify for nursing licensure
The National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN) evaluates prospective RNs

Gain clinical nursing experience
Once licensed, nurses can gain clinical experience through entry-level jobs in hospitals and clinics. Prospective plastic surgical nurses pursuing board certification require two years or 1,000 hours of RN experience.

Consider becoming a certified plastic surgical nurse (CPSN)
While this credential is not mandatory for plastic surgery nurses, it can help RNs demonstrate their competency. In addition, some employers prefer to hire CPSNs. Candidates must pass an exam to obtain certification.

How Much Do Plastic Surgery Nurses Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs enjoy a median annual salary of $75,330. While the BLS does not offer salary data specifically for plastic surgery nurses, data from PayScale suggests that these professionals make an average base salary of $32 per hour. Actual earnings vary according to location, experience, and education level.

RN jobs are projected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than average for all other professions. An aging population requires more medical care and may also look to reverse the effects of aging with plastic surgery.

Check out this resource to learn more about plastic surgery nurse salaries.

Find State-Specific Salary Data Here

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become a plastic surgery nurse?

    It can take 4-6 years to become a plastic surgery nurse, including earning specialty certification. An associate degree traditionally takes two years to complete, while a bachelor’s program lasts four years. After graduating and earning licensure, RNs must gain at least two years of experience before applying for certification.

  • What types of procedures are most common for plastic surgery nurses?

    Plastic surgery nurses assist surgeons with all kinds of procedures. According to a 2014 report from the American Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the most common plastic surgery procedures include breast augmentations, lifts, and reductions; brow lifts; buttock augmentation and lifts; chin augmentation; and ear surgery.

  • What skills are important for plastic surgery nurses?

    Plastic surgery nurses share the same skills as other nurses: interpersonal expertise, the ability to take physical assessments, patient care, and communication skills in relaying information to both surgeons and patients. Additionally, plastic surgery nurses need an in-depth understanding of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.

  • Are CPSNs required to renew their certification?

    Yes. CPSNs must renew their certification every three years. Nurses qualify for renewal if they have completed at least 45 patient contact hours, including two hours related to patient safety.

Resources for Plastic Surgery Nurses


  • International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses

    Founded in 1975, this global nonprofit organization promotes education for plastic surgery nurses. Members can connect with other nurses and learn more about the profession at the organization's annual meeting. Members also receive a subscription to their journal Plastic Surgical Nursing and receive discounts on ISPAN publications. The group offers credentials, including the CPSN and the certified aesthetic nurse specialist (CANS).


  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons

    This group connects professionals and plastic surgery patients. Surgeons and nurses who join ASPS gain access to educational and professional development opportunities. They can also subscribe to ASPS publications and get involved with the community through online forums and job boards.


  • The American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery

    The AAAMS offers formal cosmetic surgery training for nurses, practitioners, and physicians. Members can take courses in facial and body aesthetics, such as liposuction and dermal fillers training. These resources can prove helpful for nurses who wish to get started in the industry.


  • American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

    This organization provides training, professional development, and advocacy for professionals in the cosmetic surgery field. Members can attend an annual conference, participate in the AACS training institute, or take part in web clinics.


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Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN


Nicole Galan, RN, MSN is a registered nurse who started in a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved to infertility care where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.

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