Aesthetic nurse prescriber Kay Greveson on the value of support for those starting out in the specialty
Working as an aesthetic practitioner can sometimes make you feel isolated as you may often find yourself working independently. When you are starting out in your career, the idea of feeling supported can help you to gain confidence, build professional relationships and even help you to land new opportunities.
To many, the idea of finding time to network or undertake shadowing opportunities, in addition to the myriad of other demands in running an aesthetic practice, can be overwhelming; particularly compared to the NHS where working as a team and shadowing opportunities are more common. With that being said, I have found it’s these efforts that can be vital in helping you to build a community that you can trust, in which you feel supported. It goes without saying that building relationships and connecting with peers is essential in aesthetics.
This article will explore how the novice practitioner can flourish when it comes to improving their networking skills and gaining support to give them the confidence that they deserve.
Networking is a vital skill that essentially helps you to meet new people and build professional relationships. It is something that we do daily, without even realising. Whether that’s attending events or meetings, discussing difficult cases with colleagues or just talking with other practitioners about what you have going on in your clinic, networking is everywhere.
In aesthetics, networking skills enable you to meet people with similar interests and share information. It also allows you to keep up-to-date with current trends and developments in your profession.2 Developing a network of friends and colleagues can give you the energy and motivation to build your profile and open new doors, as well as discuss concerns and ask for advice.3 However, it is a skill that may not come naturally to some people. If you are shy or insecure then the thought of introducing yourself to others may feel daunting. Although it may seem foreign at first, you can start building networks by asking colleagues to introduce you to their friends, arranging informal visits to your clinic or by shadowing colleagues, joining professional forums or attending conferences. Below I explore some of the best places to kick-start your networking and obtain valuable support from your aesthetic peers.
Associations such as the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN), Private Independent Aesthetic Practices Association (PIAPA), British College of Aesthetic Medicine (BCAM), British Dental Association (BDA), the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), the Aesthetics Complications Expert (ACE) Group, amongst others, offer numerous educational opportunities, as well as opportunities for networking and ultimately gaining support. Depending on which association you sign up to, for which there is usually a fee, you may be entitled to have access to a Facebook online forum or invites to the association’s meetings and annual conferences, for example. This gives you the chance to meet like-minded professionals and make the first steps to building a peer support group.
Unlike online support, which is discussed below, meeting people at conferences allows for face-to-face interactions, opportunities to bounce ideas off others, make lasting friendships and supportive relationships. They generally include interactive debates, live demonstrations and are often CPD verified, which is essential for revalidation and further development. There are lots of great conferences across the UK, like the Aesthetics Conference and Exhibition for example. Not only are there exclusive talks and training sessions at such events, but exhibition floors allow you to walk around the industry stands and get talking to the sales representatives or company directors present about products and new technologies; conversation will then naturally develop. It may also be a perfect opportunity to find a clinic support partner, like a PR agency or an insurance firm for example. Companies like this will ultimately help to work alongside your clinic to offer advice in certain areas that you may not be able to.
Online peer support is available in many forms, such as the BACN or ACE online Facebook pages,4 which facilitate sharing of knowledge and experience, offering advice and support to practitioners of all levels. There are also free forums that you can join and although the free ones may be useful, I believe that by paying into an association provides more regulated, professional connections and support in the long run.
If you are part of an online forum and there is a conference or training event coming up, you could start by posting on the group to ask if others are planning to attend and maybe plan a place or time to meet. Perhaps start by asking if anyone is going to the same session as you or if a group of you want to get together over lunch. This may feel easier than starting conversations in person at the event.
Social media is a great way to network and share your thoughts. For example, by asking questions or starting polls on Twitter or tagging other practitioners on relevant posts on Instagram can help you to keep your knowledge and skills up to date, start conversations, share ideas and debate on the latest trends with peers in aesthetics.
All professionals participating in social media content should familiarise themselves with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Medical Council (GMC) code of conduct regarding social media use to ensure they do not compromise patient confidentiality and act professionally to avoid jeopardising their reputation.5
Example: I’ve just attended a fantastic training event with @InsertAestheticTrainer! What I want to know, is how many of you trained on cadavers? Would you recommend it?
I would advise fellow practitioners to make the most of any training and education events that come your way and use them to build confidence, further your knowledge and network with fellow students. As well as of course serving the purpose of improving your clinical skills, here you can get tips from other students about how they run their practice and what new treatments they offer. You will find that many practitioners are open to sharing ideas and advice in these scenarios and will be just as relieved as you are to have an opportunity to share common issues and challenges. As well as training providers or topic-specific events that are listed on training pages such as on the Aesthetics website, it may also be worth contacting your local sales representatives to find out when their next training dates are.
Formal clinical supervision involves two professionals (the mentor and mentee) sharing clinical, organisational, developmental and emotional experiences in a secure and confidential environment.10 Unlike an appraisal, I believe that clinical supervision offers more of a reflective experience, is non-judgemental and can often lead to improved clinical care, as well as being recommended by the Quality Care Commission.11
Including clinical supervision in your aesthetic practice could not only improve your confidence but also give you an increased depth of knowledge, identify training needs and reduce emotional stress through sharing experiences and reflecting on difficult cases. It is also something that should be done to show competence and reflection in practice as part of your revalidation.13,14 A clinical supervisor should be someone who you feel comfortable sharing information with and who is working in a similar role. If you are new to aesthetics and do not have anyone you feel you can approach for clinical supervision, try some of the tips I have given above.
I believe that it is also worth noting that your clinical supervision should be in line with that set out by the Cosmetic Practice Standards Authority (CPSA)15 supervision matrix. Local mentoring and shadowing could be very beneficial to offering you support within your career, especially in the early days. When I started out in the specialty, I was lucky enough to have a close friend who was experienced in aesthetics to guide me through my first 12 months. They offered valuable clinical support and that all-important reassurance if I was worried about the results of a treatment I had performed or if a patient called with concerns. This, along with attendance at local regional groups, boosted my confidence in the early years. When looking for a local mentor, I recommend approaching a few different practitioners/clinics and don’t be discouraged by any initial knock-backs.
I believe that throughout your whole career it is important to have a strong support network around you, particularly when you are just starting out. I think it is important to find the time to network and identify what sort of networking opportunities work best for you as this is where you will meet like-minded people. That paired with training opportunities, clinical supervision and being part of an organised community will set you on track for feeling supported and confident in your line of work.
The burden of balancing family, work and social life can seem overwhelming, but undergoing examples such as the above, can reap positive rewards. I would urge anyone starting out in this specialty to make the first steps today and link together with your local aesthetic community.
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