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A plastic surgery nurse is a health-care professional who cares for patients before, during, and after cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedures. He or she prepares operating rooms and actively assists surgeons during procedures. A nurse also provides consultation services to help people determine whether or not they should undergo surgery. Most plastic surgery nurses work in inpatient and outpatient surgical centers dedicated to the specialty, though some professionals are employed by general hospitals, occupational therapy clinics, and private doctor's offices.
People undergo plastic surgery for many reasons, and it is common for a plastic surgery nurse to encounter many different conditions and patient types. Nurses attend elective procedures, such as face lifts and breast augmentations as well as reconstructive surgeries to correct congenital and acquired deformities. Before a patient undergoes surgery, a nurse explains the procedure and provides information about what to expect. He or she stocks the operating room, helps the patient get into position, and sterilizes the target area of the body.
It is important for a nurse to understand anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and common surgical techniques to ensure that a patient is cared for properly during a procedure. He or she works alongside the surgeon, making sure the patient remains stable. Following surgery, the nurse cleans and dresses scars, helps the patient dress, and monitors his or her condition in a recovery room.
Patient and family education is an important part of a plastic surgery nurse's job. Following a successful procedure, the nurse explains home care techniques, such as changing bandages, icing swollen body parts, and taking medications. He or she reminds patients to attend follow-up visits to ensure that procedures were successful. In addition, a plastic surgery nurse may be responsible for helping patients understand their medical bills and arrange payment options.
A person who wants to become a plastic surgery nurse typically needs to hold an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass a registered nurse examination. Most specialists begin their careers in other health-care settings, such as emergency rooms and general hospitals, to gain practical experience. Some plastic surgeons prefer to staff nurses who have operating room experience and voluntary credentials from respected reconstructive surgery certification boards.
With experience and continuing education, a plastic surgery nurse can enjoy many opportunities for advancement. Some professionals become supervisors at inpatient and outpatient clinics, directing other nurses and various staff members. Many nurses earn master's degrees to become nurse practitioners, granting them additional responsibilities and opportunities to conduct research. Others pursue medical degrees part- or full-time to begin the path to become surgeons.