Becoming an Aesthetic Trainer

By Dr Paul Charlson and Dr Vikram Swaminathan / 11 Dec 2020

Dr Vikram Swaminathan and Dr Paul Charlson explain how you can evolve from aesthetic practitioner to aesthetic trainer and assessor

Despite being an unregulated sector, there are many organisations which focus on the teaching, training and assessment of aesthetic medicine. Becoming an aesthetic trainer is often seen as the next step in a medical aesthetic practitioner’s career, showing one’s development in experience and knowledge to a level which allows you to teach and share this with others. Whilst there are excellent trainers out there, we have all attended courses or sessions that were less effective, and becoming a good trainer is not necessarily as easy as just turning up and dispensing knowledge. Currently, due to the differing requirements (if any) for who can become a trainer, training and education quality varies, there are no set industry minimum requirements for subject knowledge, practical experience, or assessments of competence as a trainer when individuals wish to set up educational or training events. To be an effective trainer, it is important for practitioners to be passionate about educating a new generation of practitioners and have the skills which allow them to do this to a high standard.

This article will explore how you can move from being a practitioner to a trainer in aesthetics, or, if you are newer to the industry, what you might need to consider if it’s something you may want to explore as you move through your aesthetic career.

Current landscape

Education exists at different levels, often related to the setting. The formal education can be crudely differentiated into undergraduate and postgraduate, or higher-level training. Most people will recognise the emergence of Level 7 training, which in higher education terms is equivalent to a master’s degree or postgraduate certificate.1,2 This is seen in both the private education sector and within higher institutions, such as universities.

Education in aesthetics occurs in many different forms, settings and levels. Some common forms include:

  • Face-to-face training, both clinical and theoretical
  • Mentoring
  • Small or large group sessions
  • Conferences
  • Networking events
  • Sponsored training events
  • Live or pre-recorded webinar-based sessions
  • Online learning
  • Home self-learning
  • Written materials, such as journals and books
  • Dissemination of clinical research

Some education providers in aesthetics have specific regulatory requirements around who can be a trainer, assessor or examiner, depending on the course, while others do not.

Routes to becoming a trainer

Training course providers

There is an increasing number of training course providers in the private sector, covering education in aesthetics across all modalities, ranging from basic injectable training through to device-based therapies. The learner often obtains a certificate of attendance or course completion following successful achievement of these ‘CPD style’ courses. These providers generally have a team of educators who have experience in the modality being taught, and a perceived competency in the modality. Often, no specific training or educational requirements govern the training faculty, with each provider making an independent selection decision as to who their trainers may be.

It is important to understand the requirements of a training provider awarding organisation, so that you can apply for appropriate roles based on your own experience and qualifications. If you are looking to become a trainer for this kind of institution, then typically the strategy here is to directly approach the organisation and ask them if you can get involved with their educational activities. Practitioners may be invited to observe a few sessions so that the provider and existing trainers can get some understanding of your potential as a future trainer. It may be beneficial to have undertaken some of the provider’s courses as a delegate, so you have a first-hand understanding of the teaching provided and requirements of their trainers.

If you are successful enough to join an educational provider as a trainer, it is important to check the organisation you work for has appropriate indemnity in place for their trainers, who in some cases are directly supervising other healthcare professionals (the students or course delegates) to treat patients. In some circumstances, this may be something you need to seek through your own insurance provider.

Level 7 academies

Various training course providers are able to offer formal qualifications through an affiliation with an awarding organisation; a third-party company in the private sector such as Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT).3 These organisations will formally oversee students enrolled on respective

affiliated courses. The awarding bodies are themselves governed by and registered with an approved government regulatory body in the education sector, such as OFQUAL.

Trainer requirements are set by the course provider based on the curriculum and awarding body. Traditionally, Level 7 course providers require their trainers to have obtained a formal teaching qualification (at Level 3 or greater) and have a minimum number of years’ experience in the specialty. This is variable between academies, depending on their affiliated awarding organisation. There are often other conditions in place within postgraduate training providers, where clinical trainers may not be able to assess or examine students within the same organisation. To maximise your chances of achieving a role in a Level 7 academy, it is beneficial if the trainer has achieved the qualification (or equivalent) being taught. In addition, other experiences of postgraduate training will add weight to your application. However, even with these CV boosters, selection can just be down to how good you are at teaching and mentoring other healthcare professionals.

Higher institutions

Many universities now offer qualifications in aesthetic medicine, such as Queen Mary University, University of South Wales and Manchester University.4,5 These courses do not generally provide a professional competence framework, such as injecting competency, but aim to offer integrated knowledge and the application of critical skills enveloped within high quality professional behaviours.5 Therefore, the trainer teaching roles and responsibilities are likely more theoretic than practical.

The students on these courses are expected to acquire a comprehensive knowledge base that can be applied to their future or current clinical practice. Trainers within these courses often come from the existing health and life science departments at the university, or through existing academic teaching affiliations. This may include clinical lecturers, professors and honorary teachers. The educational faculty is often led by higher institution academics, such as clinical or research professors, with specialist interests in the field of aesthetic medicine.

There are associated roles within these educational teams for sector specialists and trainers, who are able to provide their extensive experience and clinical knowledge to the course for the benefit of the students. These roles are normally advertised formally by the institution and often involve an interview process for lecturer positions within the university, which will scrutinise the applicant’s teaching, research and general academic credentials. Holding a formal teaching qualification and a track record of research and publications within the field or within healthcare in general will help to boost your chances of success in this area.

Brand-focused training

A significant proportion of educational opportunities for aesthetic practitioners occur through brand-focused routes, often with clinical product manufacturers or distributors. Most pharmaceutical product manufacturers, distributors and suppliers will be represented by clinical product specialists or key opinion leaders (KOLs).6 These individuals are not always healthcare professionals; however, most well-known brands tend to rely on an aesthetic practitioner-led trainer team. There are often opportunities for trainers at local, regional, national or international levels. Each company will have its own criteria or methods to select suitable KOLs.

From our own experiences, the starting point to becoming a company KOL is often to have good relationships with members of the sales teams (such as your local sales representative or business development manager). This will help you get noticed by the company. A strong brand awareness and evidenced history of their product use shows that you are a potential experienced practitioner with their product and the associated interventions. There are no specific academic requirements for sponsored educators, such as formal teaching qualifications or an academic research background, however, you find that some KOLs come with an extensive CV of both and in an increasing competitive environment these things can help set you apart.

As such, it is important to maintain communication with your preferred sector partners as this may one day lead to an education opportunity within that organisation. It also shows these partners that you have a keen interest in their service and products and could be a good ambassador for their organisation in future.

Start your own brand

Many practitioners choose to not work within other educational organisations and just start their own training academy. Our sector allows for this route to be an option. There are many individuals who have significant experience working in the sector who have progressed to create successful training activities. This route will ‘self-label’ the individual as a trainer who can go on to deliver courses for other practitioners. It often requires some approval or certification of the training materials from an insurer or CPD provider, but beyond that is often not regulated by any external organisations. This is a viable option for practitioners looking to deliver some CPD-style training and share their experiences with other practitioners in the sector. It is important for the practitioner to be extremely competent in the area being taught, and ideally demonstrate evidence for why they are suitable to teach others. It is recommended that the practitioner training a delegate, and potentially certifying that delegate has achieved course competences, are themselves able to evidence achievement of the course competencies and have gone beyond this level. This could range from published evidence of clinical experience, a record showing a high level of competence in the procedure, or even completion of a formal teaching qualification.

Examiner and assessor roles: beyond ‘trainer status’

Assessment in the aesthetic sector is essential in order to maintain and improve the standards achieved by practitioners completing the various types of courses. Postgraduate academies (such as Level 7 training academies) require examiners to perform assessment roles for marking assignments, direct observation of procedural skills (DOPS), as well as during objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs).

A trainer may also be acting as an examiner or assessor. A comprehensive understanding of the course learning objectives and assessment outcomes is key to be successful in these roles. There can be a conflict if a trainer has delivered education to the same individuals they are assessing. Increasingly, validity of a course will require moderation by external as well as internal assessors. There is potential, similar to certain trainer roles, that there will be a requirement to hold an assessor’s qualification, usually at a minimum Level 3, although there is no sector specific route at present.

It is essential that assessors separate themselves from their teaching role to remain impartial. These roles require additional skills and attributes; experience and knowledge alone are not enough. It has been well publicised that several medical specialties have moved towards credentialing practitioners who are practising as sub-specialists within their specialty. Aesthetic organisations and societies are also looking towards appropriate assessment methods and processes to meet these needs and modernise the standards within the specialty. Both the British College for Aesthetic Medicine and British Association of Cosmetic Nurses are developing assessment processes which would require examiners and assessors. Likely requirements for these individuals could include:

  • Several years of experience in the field
  • Clinical competence in associated interventions
  • Formal education, training or assessor qualifications
  • Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy7

Furthering your career

Education and training in aesthetics can be extremely rewarding. It is important to consider your path to become a trainer carefully, especially in an increasingly competitive sector that has no regulation on training requirements or who can become a trainer. A comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter, extensive experience in the treatment modalities, as well as a good understanding of the educational landscape in the aesthetics sector is essential for success, as well as patient safety. Completion of education courses and memberships to appropriate academic, professional and educational societies can all help to show commitment towards an academic aesthetic career and evidence good teaching or assessing practice, which is seen as desirable to potential employing educational organisations.

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