Independent nurse prescriber Emma Davies talks to us about co-founding the BACN, and her unwavering passion for growth, learning and regulation
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you have your heart set on”
Emma Davies has achieved many milestones in a career spanning 28 years. From co-founding the British Association of Aesthetic Nurses (BACN), to her current clinical director position at the newly-formed Save Face, her work has served as an important building block for a generation of practitioners campaigning for better regulation in aesthetic medicine.
Qualifying as an NHS nurse in 1987, Davies recollects how she fell in love with the profession at a young age. “I had kidney disease when I was a child and spent a lot of time in hospital, so grew up wanting to be a nurse. Those nurses who looked after me inspired me,” she explains.
Her interest in aesthetic work wasn’t sparked until 1998, when a colleague mentioned that a nurse who had treated her with collagen injections was looking to expand her practice – andwas offering training in the field. The aforementioned nurse was AestheticSource director Lorna Bowes. “I was fortunate because she mentored me and helped me find my feet. I haven’t really stopped since,” says Davies. “The more I find there is to learn – which is what I love – the more I love my work.”
In the beginning, Davies experienced a very gradual learning curve. “At the time there weren’t many reference points – if any,” she recalls. “It was a slow learning curve for me, it was such a foreign world.” However, she focused on building her skills by following her personal motto, ‘plough your own furrow’, which means don’t be distracted by what other people are doing – focus on doing what you do, and doing it well. Since 1998, Davies has worked in independent and national chains in London and the South West, before establishing her own clinic in Somerset and courses for vein-care training in 2003. She now also works alongside a plastic surgeon in Bristol. “I’ve never just focused on one thing, I’ve always had two or three different hats,” she says.
Davies feels the BACN is her biggest achievement to date. Before its creation in 2010, turning to other professional bodies had left her disappointed. She felt their services were no longer adequate for the aesthetic nurse profession. “The BACN was really needed to take up the baton, celebrate our role, and bring aesthetic nurses together in a community. It was needed to develop our selves further,” she says, adding, “I was completely hooked on the journey.” Though it didn’t seem likely at the time, the BACN eventually grew to be much more than Davies and her fellow founding members had ever imagined. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how important it’s been, and how important it’s going to continue to be for those nurses that are passionate and committed to it,” she says.
After retiring from her post as BACN Chair in 2014, though still actively involved in the association, she has since become the clinical director of voluntary accreditation register Save Face.“I was planning to have a quieter life, but this was far too exciting to say no to,” she says. Davies acknowledges the requirement, as highlighted in the Keogh report, for an independent register of accredited professionals. “I think we’re all agreed that we will be in a better place when there are accredited standards and pathways to education, and when the consumer has a means to navigate to an independently verified, safe and accountable service provider.”
For industry newcomers, she insists research is key. “Reading journals such as Aesthetics is hugely valuable, as is making time to get a feel for the field before jumping in,” she advises. Reflecting on her career and on how she has learnt from mistakes, she says candidly, “I would think the mistakes and the wrong turns, and there have been a few, have had so much more value than things that went right the first time, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made and learnt from them. I wouldn’t change anything.”
What treatment do you enjoy giving the most?
Dermal fillers. It’s a skill that allows you to be fairly artistic, and it provides that instant wow-factor for the patient.
What technological tool do you think best complements your work?
The syringe or the needle. Having a good quality syringe – and the types do vary – and a very sharp needle, are the main things that complement my work.
What’s the best piece of career advice you think you’ve been given?
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something that you have your heart set on.” When I had big ideas, it would have been easy to ‘park’ them, the voice of doubt saying, “Well, if that’s such a good idea, why hasn’t it been done?” I might have played safe and simple, but I didn’t, and have thoroughly enjoyed and grown from all the challenges I’ve faced.
Do you have an industry ‘pet hate’?
When role models brag about treating large numbers of patients every day, as though seeing a patient every 15 minutes is a measure of success. All I’m thinking is, what is that experience like for the patient? We have to remember there’s a person on that couch, and they’re paying a lot of money, so they shouldn’t be treated like something in a factory. Where is your job satisfaction when you’re working with that attitude?
What aspects of aesthetics do you enjoy the most?
I love meeting with professionals who have a passion for the craft, care about their patients, and love what they do – and there are lots of them.