The Medical Aesthetics Training Process

By Shannon Kilgariff / 07 Mar 2017

Practitioners share advice on how to be successful through continuous and appropriate training and development

The topic of training might, to some, be a rather dry discussion. In most medical professions, such as those who are a doctor, nurse, dentist or surgeon, the training consists of years of study at university, with a specialist qualification awarded upon completion of the degree, after final exams. But for many in the medical aesthetics specialty, the process is somewhat different.

Although guidelines for the levels of training needed to perform aesthetic treatments were released by Health Education England (HEE) in November 2015,1 there is currently no regulation with regards to the minimum level of experience that a so-called ‘aesthetic practitioner’ must have to be able to administer non-surgical injectable treatments such as botulinum toxin, dermal filler injections and PDO threads. There is therefore no single route that one must take to become competent in these treatments from a regulation standpoint. 

Mr Dalvi Humzah is a consultant plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon, as well as the director of Dalvi Humzah Aesthetic Training, winner of the 2016 Enhance Insurance Award for Training Initiative of the Year. He explains, “The problem that we currently have in the UK is that we do not have any specific structured training that says that when you complete this course you are qualified in aesthetic treatments. This means that it is really up to the individual to arrange their own training and make sure that they are competent. That is the difficult thing – it’s not like any other specialty where you can say, at the end of these five years you can do a written exam and be called a specialist. This is something that is sorely missing.”

Importance of training

Aesthetic practitioners and trainers interviewed for this article agree that there are certain things that both a new and experienced medical professional should do to become the safest and most competent practitioner that they can be.

Consultant plastic surgeon and clinical director of Cosmetic Courses, Mr Adrian Richards, says, “Ongoing training is essential for any sort of medical professional in any specialty whether you are a surgeon, doctor, nurse or dentist.” He adds, “Aesthetics is no different, in fact, aesthetics is a very fast-growing, changing specialty, so it’s essential that we as practitioners have good training in this area and are up-to-date with the latest treatments.”

Aesthetic independent nurse prescriber, Rachael Wainwright, who is a trainer for Healthxchange Academy and Allergan, agrees that training in aesthetics is vital, “Safety in the aesthetics industry is a big concern at present, especially in light of the lack of regulation in the industry. Regular training ensures that injectors are keeping up-to-date with modern practises and are aware of the safest products and techniques available.”

Whether you are an experienced practitioner looking to develop your skills or if you are new to the specialty, the practitioners agree that training is an ongoing process. This process includes careful consideration of what you would like to get out of your training, thorough research and assessment of the types of courses available, how you can make the most out of the information that is provided to you, and how you can continuously build upon and update your skills and knowledge in the aesthetics specialty.

Choosing a course

The industry is currently inundated with many different training courses, which can pose a challenge to anyone looking to choose their next education session. Dr Sophie Shotter is an aesthetic practitioner who also has experience in training aesthetic practitioners, and says that, “There are so many companies now I think it’s really hard to decide which to go for – when I trained four years ago there really weren’t that many.”

Broadly speaking, there are three different types of training course that aesthetic practitioners may consider. These are:

  • Training courses which may be verified through Continued Professional Development (CPD) bodies, where you can receive CPD points for appraisal or revalidation, which generally include one or two day courses. 
  • Courses that are conducted through an aesthetic company and may be exclusive to specific products such as a pharmaceutical company or distributor.
  • Training for a post-graduate accredited qualification by regulatory body Ofqual, which is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (may include courses that are in-line with HEE recommended guidelines for Level 7).1

So, how do you know what is right for you? Mr Humzah says that it’s all about predetermining your learning outcomes and objectives, “The challenge is to figure out what you will get out of the course – whether it will deliver what you need it to do and that means looking at the course in a lot of detail.”

For example, if a practitioner was looking to join the register of aesthetic practitioners administering botulinum toxin treatments that the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) is scheduled to launch later this year,1 then they might consider becoming qualified through a Level 7 course. This is because the JCCP is proposing that only practitioners with this level of training will be able to join the register for this treatment as they are hoping to implement national standards developed through HEE, however this framework has not yet been released so there may be further changes to the requirements of the register.1,2

Mr Richards explains, “Level 7 courses can be for both new and experienced practitioners. If experienced practitioners wish to do a qualification, they can apply for recognition of prior learning so they can use some of their previous practical experience towards the Level 7 modules. If you are new you might want to start with a one or two day foundation course first to see whether aesthetics is for you.”

When choosing any course, Wainwright suggests answering the following, “Is it a CPD or Ofqual course? Does it offer practical and theoretical based training? Is it led by industry leading trainers/expert medical professionals? Is the venue purpose built for training courses? How many delegates will be on 

 “Aesthetics is a very fast-growing, changing subject, so it’s really essential that we as practitioners have good training in this area and are up-to-date with the latest treatments” Mr Adrian Richards 

So, how do you know what is right for you? Mr Humzah says that it’s all about predetermining your learning outcomes and objectives, “The challenge is to figure out what you will get out of the course – whether it will deliver what you need it to do and that means looking at the course in a lot of detail.”

For example, if a practitioner was looking to join the register of aesthetic practitioners administering botulinum toxin treatments that the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) is scheduled to launch later this year,1 then they might consider becoming qualified through a Level 7 course. This is because the JCCP is proposing that only practitioners with this level of training will be able to join the register for this treatment as they are hoping to implement national standards developed through HEE, however this framework has not yet been released so there may be further changes to the requirements of the register.1,2

Mr Richards explains, “Level 7 courses can be for both new and experienced practitioners. If experienced practitioners wish to do a qualification, they can apply for recognition of prior learning so they can use some of their previous practical experience towards the Level 7 modules. If you are new you might want to start with a one or two day foundation course first to see whether aesthetics is for you.”

When choosing any course, Wainwright suggests answering the following, “Is it a CPD or Ofqual course? Does it offer practical and theoretical based training? Is it led by industry leading trainers/expert medical professionals? Is the venue purpose built for training courses? How many delegates will be on the course? Small group sizes are best for practical sessions.”

Dr Shotter also advises to, “Do your research, if you know somebody who is already in the industry ask where they did their training and look the course up. It’s important to note that just because somebody has a ‘flash’ website, it doesn’t mean they are the best around. Look at the reviews as it gives the course independent validation, look at the experience of the trainers and read about the individual courses, what they offer and if they have won any industry awards.”

As well as the above considerations, aesthetic practitioner, mentor and trainer at the Harley Academy, Dr Raul Cetto, believes practitioners should, “Choose a course that has a mentoring component – there is great value in attending mentor sessions with people who have been doing this for years. For example, our students who are enrolled in the Level 7 qualification are required to have 10 observed and 10 performed procedures, which is in line with the HEE guidelines, so my role is to mentor them in small groups in my clinic and they observe and perform procedures that are at their level.”

Dr Shotter also suggests actively asking for mentorship if the course or trainer does not necessarily offer it, “Ask your trainer or training company for mentorship or ongoing guidance because after a course you tend to go out when you are new and feel very alone. I think your best bet at finding a mentor, if you are new, is on the first training day.” 

Utilising your training experience

Once you have determined which course (or courses) is right for you, there are many ways in which you can ensure that you make the most out of your training opportunity. Dr Cetto explains, “To start with the basics, arrive well rested. The last thing you want to do is arrive to training after a late night or busy week because you are not going to get the best out of it. Also, one of the most important things to do is to read up on all the pre-course material as if you don’t brush up on things like the anatomy you are probably going to be a little bit behind.” 

Mr Humzah adds that as well as this material, it is a good idea to contact the course provider prior to arriving and tell them what you would like to get out of it, “This allows the training provider to ensure the training is specific to the requirements of the trainee – in our courses we often ask if there is anything that the trainee wants to concentrate on,” he says.

Mr Richards believes that for optimum learning outcomes during the training course it is important to, “Take your own notes, ask a lot of questions and be very interactive during the session.” 

“There are good quality conferences in the UK and abroad so I would definitely advise practitioners to attend these to keep up their knowledge” Dr Raul Cetto 

Mr Humzah adds that asking the right questions is key, “Go to the course ready to question what they are teaching you – don’t just accept what is being said, particularly if it is sponsored, as you do need to be aware that there are alternate views. You can ask questions like, ‘how does this technology compare or relate to other technologies?’ Find out before the course what other technologies are available so that you can ask meaningful questions at the course. If you can ask meaningful questions then it will be better for you as you can understand more about the topic and it will help to further your knowledge.”

Dr Shotter adds that it might be obvious, but listening is key, “Go to every course with an open mind and just always listen. You might have heard or read loads of it before but if someone switches off and thinks, ‘yes I know a lot of this already’ they will miss out on so many learning opportunities.” 

What to do after you have trained

Once you have completed a training programme, some may ask, what do I do now? Dr Cetto says putting your new knowledge into practise is a crucial step after the completion of a course to ensure that you make the most out of it, “If you don’t practise and don’t put your new knowledge in place as soon as you have finished training, you will lose the knowledge that you have gained, so there is no point in putting all the time, effort and money into training if you’re not going to do the treatments.” 

Mr Humzah agrees, “Always try to put your training into practise sooner rather than later – that’s easier said than done – it’s happened to all of us where we have been on various training courses and get all fired up, full of enthusiasm, and then don’t do the procedure for a couple of months!” To help with this, Dr Cetto advises to always line up patients that you can treat after the course is complete.

In addition, after the course, Dr Shotter says it is vital to never stand still in regards to your learning, advising, “Take advantage of the opportunities that are open to you – the way I inject now is completely different to how I did it four years ago and that is because I have exposed myself to so many different people’s ideas and techniques. Go to conferences, listen to what other people do and do plenty of reading – I subscribe to every journal I can get my hands on to make sure I am staying up to date.

“The challenge is to figure out what you will get out of the course – whether it will deliver what you need it to do and that means looking at the course in a lot of detail” Mr Dalvi Humzah 

All practitioners interviewed agree that conferences are a great resource for furthering your skills, education and training, Dr Cetto says, “There are good quality conferences in the UK and abroad so I would definitely advise practitioners to attend these to keep up their knowledge.”

As well as conferences, Mr Richards also advises practitioners to, “Join the professional organisations, such as the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses and the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, because it provides a support network – aesthetics can sometimes be daunting and lonely especially when you start out, so these associations are great for sharing ideas, networking and helping each other with any issues. Awards evenings are also beneficial to attend for networking opportunities.”

Dr Shotter advises that after training, new practitioners should also connect and network with others through social media for added learning, “It’s really important to have a good network around you – there are so many possibilities where you can meet other professionals. One way you can do this is to join Facebook groups where medical practitioners can have conversations on views and experiences, purchasing equipment and complications that people are seeing. You have got hundreds of people in these groups who support each other and also unite together and discuss things like regulation.”

When the trainee becomes the trainer

For some, the next step of the training journey is to share your skills and knowledge with others through becoming a trainer. “I think you need to have been practising for a few years and have an in-depth knowledge of the field of aesthetics,” explains Dr Cetto, who says that for him, training others is extremely rewarding, “I learn a lot from the people that I mentor and train and you learn things about yourself as well. There is always room for improvement in developing other areas.”

However, Wainwright says that moving from an inexperienced practitioner to a trainer is not always a natural progression and is certainly not for everyone, “Not all people are able to train others. Not all people have the ability to support and impart knowledge in a manner that facilitates others to learn and improve their own knowledge and skills. However, experience in the field, managing complications and supporting others through networks in the industry, should facilitate the natural progression to trainer. Showing a continued passion for learning and developing their own skills, will highlight an expert practitioner who is ready to train.”

Mr Humzah explains that he believes a good trainer is someone who has the following qualities, “They must have good preparation, understand the needs of the trainee, able to feed back to the trainee and deliver the training with passion, enthusiasm and empathy.” He also believes that a trainer must have the ability to educate in a variety of ways from a one-to-one basis to small groups to large audiences at conferences, “If this does not come naturally to you and you still want to be a trainer, I suggest that you do a trainer course that helps you become a trainer or make sure that, if it is a company that has approached you, they train you thoroughly.”

Is education ever complete?

According to practitioners, training and education is never complete. Mr Richards says that the training journey is always ongoing and even the best practitioners must continue to learn in order to maintain safe practice and be successful, “Training is never finished for anyone. If you think your training is finished, then you will become a dinosaur and as we know, dinosaurs become extinct! Even as an experienced plastic surgeon I need to stay up to date with the latest techniques – the best practitioners in my experience are the people who focus on continued lifelong learning.” 

References

  1. Health Education England, ‘New qualifications unveiled to improve the safety of non-surgical cosmetic procedures,’ HEE, January 2016, <https://hee.nhs.uk/news-events/news/new-qualifications-unveiled-improve-safety-non-surgical-cosmetic-procedures>
  2. BACN, ‘Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners’, 2016, <http://www.bacn.org.uk/JCCP> 

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