Switching Careers: How One Nurse Went from ICU to Medical Aesthetics Practice
These examples are intended to provide information and inspiration for your journey and are not a recommendation or endorsement.
Molly Boudreault may be the lead laser and aesthetic nurse practitioner at a practice, which she co-founded with her husband, a board certified plastic surgeon, in 2015, but she started her career as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. It was personal interactions with patients that drew Molly to a career in aesthetics. “That’s why I got into nursing—because I want to care for people in need and develop meaningful relationships with them,” she says. As an ICU nurse, she found herself wondering what happened to the patients after they were discharged: How were their families and loved ones doing? “I realized that what I desired was a traditional family-like practice, where your patients become an extension of your family,” she explains. “Aesthetics was a perfect way for me to blend my personal interest in the aesthetics industry with my desire to have deep meaningful relationships with patients.”
Read some of Molly’s personal insights to learn how she made the transition to the aesthetics industry and the key lessons she learned along the way.
Tip #1 Aesthetics and hospital nursing require the same core skills
What industry outsiders might find surprising is that many of the characteristics that make great nurses in hospitals also make great aesthetic practitioners, according to Molly. That includes maintaining high energy, paying attention to details, staying calm in stressful situations, and most importantly, she adds, making patient safety their number one priority.
Tip #2 Some of the best training opportunities start with networking
When Molly started looking into a career in aesthetics, she found just a handful of websites that offered very general advice. What ended up being more helpful was social media at the time, specifically LinkedIn. “It was an easy way for me to connect to practitioners who were willing to help the next generation of aesthetic nurses,” she says. “I asked a few experts in my community if they would sit down with me over coffee and offer advice on entering the aesthetics space—It was valuable for me to learn what they thought were important qualities in candidates who were applying for aesthetic nursing positions.”
Tip #3 There’s nothing like seeing the practice in actio
After taking a 13-week course online which gave her a general education in aesthetics, it was shadowing a medical doctor at a med spa that ultimately provided the best experience for Molly. “This experience gave me a good foundation in aesthetics. Even though I wasn’t treating patients, I was able to participate in conversations and learn protocols, treatment dosing and anatomy,” she says. Because she appreciated Molly’s passion for aesthetics and her dedicated quest for knowledge, the physician she shadowed ended up asking Molly to join her staff.
Tip #4 Make sure to find reputable training programs
Since not all training programs are equal in quality, Molly advises checking references. “I would ask if they had prior students I could speak to before I signed up for it,” she says. She would also look for certain “industry opinion leaders” and sign up for their courses. Molly recommends also taking advantage of the free training that’s available through reputable sources.
Tip #5 Don’t stop learning
To help gain more knowledge as an aesthetic nurse, Molly did a lot of self-educating—watching and re-watching videos online, shadowing practitioners, taking cadaver courses and reading anatomy books. But the learning didn’t stop there. “If you ask the best aesthetic nurses or physicians in the industry, they will tell you they are constantly learning and growing,” Molly says. “The aesthetics industry is ever-expanding and ever-changing, so if you’re not doing that, your techniques will grow outdated very quickly. It’s also important to know anatomy backwards and forwards,” she adds.
Tip #6 Cultivate the top trait employers are looking for
Employers are obviously looking for someone who can be a great aesthetic practitioner, but according to Molly, they’re also looking for a self-starter. “It takes time and grit to grow your clientele, even if you’re stepping into a busy office,” she says. Landing the job,” she adds, “is just the start. Make sure to do whatever you can to show employers that you’re self-motivated, including that you put time into studying and making yourself as good of a candidate as possible.”
Tip #7 Be the kind of professional you’d want to see as a patient
As a patient many years ago, Molly admits to finding aesthetics a little intimidating. “All these websites had really beautiful models and the offices had stunningly gorgeous practitioners who had perfect everything—it made me feel a little bit self-conscious,” she says. It also showed her that the industry was lacking a fundamental understanding that people who have aesthetic concerns are sharing a very vulnerable part of themselves, and it has shaped her goals as a nurse practitioner. “My role as a caregiver in this space isn’t to show people an image of perfection per se,” she says. “It’s for me to take their hand and be like, ‘hey, we all have these aesthetic concerns, nobody’s perfect.’ Let’s figure out what’s really bothering you and see if there’s anything we can do to address it.” When she built her practice, Molly made sure to focus on achieving desired results. “I paid more attention to the compassionate side of aesthetics, showing patients that we’re all vulnerable.”
Tip #8 Always do a reality check
During an initial consultation, Molly reviews patients’ health history to make sure they’re good candidates for treatments they may be seeking, and whether their expectations are reasonable. In addition, she determines whether or not their concerns are something she’s able to address effectively as a nurse practitioner—or if their concern would be better managed by a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist. That’s how she ensures that patients get the desired outcome, which is always the ultimate goal. If all those things check out, she makes sure they understand the risk and benefits of a treatment she’s recommending, and takes time to address their concerns.
Tip #9 Make time to build trust
Molly’s days are filled with new patient consultations, performing facial injections, laser treatments, body contouring and micro-needling—and spending a lot of time on the phone. She always follows up with patients to make sure they’re doing well in their recovery process. “I think it’s important to be available to patients 24/7, especially new patients, to build trust,” she says. “I listen to them, let them know it’s normal to have questions and concerns, and that I’m here for them.”
About Molly Boudreault
Molly Boudreault, ACNP-BC, attended Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate and graduate education, finishing at the top of her class. Molly began her aesthetic career in 2014 and is now the lead laser and aesthetic nurse practitioner at her own practice.