Nurse Types / Dermatology Nurse
Dermatology nurses help patients care for their largest organ – their skin. This rewarding career offers flexibility, a good income, and close patient interaction, making it popular among nurses looking for an alternative to traditional hospital shift work.
This article will explain everything you need to know about becoming a dermatology nurse, including:
- What is a dermatology nurse?
- What do dermatology nurses do?
- Where do dermatology nurses work?
- What are specific types of dermatology nurses?
- How do you become a dermatology nurse in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of dermatology nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for dermatology nurses?
What is a dermatology nurse?
Dermatology nurses are specialists in caring for the skin, including skin diseases, burns, wounds, and cosmetic concerns.
As a dermatology nurse, you may help patients learn how to:
- Protect and care for their skin
- Manage conditions like skin cancer
- Maintain healthy skin as part of diabetes management
- Provide pre- and post-operative care for cosmetic surgery
- Assist with cosmetic skin procedures
- Treat skin wounds and injuries
Qualities of a successful dermatology nurse
If you are interested in dermatology nursing, you should have advanced knowledge of skin health and treatment for common skin issues.
Other important qualities include:
- Strong patient assessment skills
- An understanding of common skin disorders, skin diseases, and wound care
- Knowledge of common dermatologic procedures
- Excellent patient communication and education skills
- Pre- and post-op management skills
What do dermatology nurses do?
Dermatology nurses care for patients with a variety of skin conditions and concerns.
Some of the tasks that a dermatology nurse might perform include:
- Assess skin condition
- Perform wound care and apply dressings
- Provide burn care
- Assist with tattoo removal
- Take patient history about skin health and daily skincare
- Conduct skin cancer screenings
- Assess skin for wounds, pressure ulcers, or suspicious growths
- Assist with procedures like skin peels, microdermabrasion, or skin biopsies
- Monitor patients after procedures like skin grafts or cosmetic surgery
- Educate patients about general skin health, post-op skin care, and preventative sun measures
A day in the life of a dermatology nurse
A typical day for a dermatology nurse will depend on where they work. A nurse who works in a general outpatient office may have tasks that include:
- Taking patient vital signs and medical history
- Conducting skin assessments
- Preparing equipment for the healthcare provider
- Assisting with procedures like skin biopsies or wart removal
- Providing patient education about skin health or sun protection
Nurses who work in a cosmetic dermatology office may also assist with cosmetic procedures, including pre- and post-operative care and education.
Dermatology nurses who specialize in wound or burn care may work in specialized units in a hospital or as part of wound care teams who visit patients throughout the hospital or in their homes. They may care for ostomies, burns, pressure ulcers, or skin tears. They may also educate other nurses about how to support skin health.
Outside of burn care units, dermatology nursing is typically slower-paced than other types of nursing. This field has fewer emergencies and less need for life-saving measures.
Common conditions treated by dermatology nurses
Nurses who are interested in dermatology have the opportunity to work with many different kinds of patients and conditions.
Some nurses work in outpatient offices that primarily deal with cosmetic skin procedures or general skin health. Others work as part of a wound care team in the hospital, long-term care, or home health.
Common conditions that dermatology nurses make see are:
- Skin cancer
- Skin tears
- Wounds and ostomies
Where do dermatology nurses work?
This type of Registered Nurse can work in many different settings depending on their specialty.
Some of the places that dermatology nurses may work include:
- Burn units
- Plastic surgeon’s offices
- Home health
- Dermatology clinics or private practices
- Day spas or cosmetic dermatology offices
What are specific types of dermatology nurses?
Dermatology nurses can specialize in cosmetic dermatology, general skin health, or wound and burn care.
Nurses who work in general dermatology offices may see patients with:
- Skin cancer
Nurses who deal with skin trauma will have advanced knowledge of:
- Wound care
- Pressure ulcers
- Skin tears
- Skin grafts
These nurses may work with specialized equipment like wound vacs or advanced dressings.
Cosmetic dermatology is a growing industry. Some of the procedures that cosmetic dermatology nurses may assist with include:
- Facial peels, microdermabrasion, and laser hair removal
- Tattoo removal and scar treatments
- Botox and dermal fillers
- Laser skin resurfacing
- Cosmetic surgeries like face lifts, breast augmentations or reductions, liposuction, or nose shapings
Closely related fields
Dermatology nurses may specialize into sub-specialties. For example:
- Wound care nurses specialize in ostomies, wounds, pressure ulcers, skin breakdown, and diabetic foot care. They may work on an outpatient or hospital basis.
- Burn units treat patients with injuries related to fire, chemicals, electricity, or oil. Nurses who work in burn units are a type of critical care nurse.
- Plastic surgeon nurses care for patients undergoing both cosmetic and reconstructive work. They may assist with elective procedures like tummy tucks or nose reshaping, or they may work with surgeons who provide breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
How do you become a dermatology nurse in 3 steps?
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
All dermatology nurses must be Registered Nurses. To become a Registered Nurse, you must complete 2-4 years of education and pass a national certifying exam called the NCLEX.
Earn a BSN degree
If you would like to work as a dermatology nurse, the first step is to obtain your Bachelor of Science of Nursing (BSN).
While it’s possible to practice with an Associate Degree in Nursing, most employers are looking for BSN-prepared nurses. A BSN usually qualifies you for a higher salary and more responsibilities. There are RN-to-BSN programs for nurses looking to uplevel their degrees.
There are several ways to achieve your BSN, including traditional four-year degree programs and accelerated BSN programs for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field.
Pass the NCLEX exam
Once you have obtained your BSN degree, you are eligible to sit for the NCLEX exam. This certifies that you have the minimum knowledge necessary to practice safely as a nurse. After you pass your NCLEX, you may apply for a nursing license in the state where you wish to practice as a nurse.
Step 2 – Accumulate experience
Helpful skills and experience
Patients can feel self-conscious about their skin conditions. Many skin issues affect personal areas of the body, and dermatology nurses must be able to build a trusting relationship with their patients. A great dermatology nurse helps patients feel at ease throughout their care and treatment.
As a dermatology nurse, you should also be prepared to:
- Provide excellent patient education
- Conduct thorough assessments
- Be organized
- Demonstrate good time management skills
- Work well with a multidisciplinary healthcare team, including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, surgeons, lab staff, and nursing assistants
Changing specialty to a dermatology nurse
Many dermatology nurses start in related fields, like med-surg, surgical, or family practice nursing. If you want to change your specialty to dermatology nursing, it helps to take continuing education units in related topics. This can also help you meet the requirements to renew your nursing license.
Other ways to increase your odds of finding a dermatology nursing position include:
- Shadow a dermatology nurse to learn more about the specialty
- Read relevant professional journals, like The Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association
- Join professional organizations like The Dermatology Nurses’ Association
Expert advice from nurses like you
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
Nurses should plan to work in dermatology for at least two years before considering certification. The primary certification in this field is the Dermatology Nursing Certification (DNC) offered by the Dermatology Nurses’ Association.
The DNC certification demonstrates that a nurse has advanced knowledge in the practice of dermatological nursing, including at least 2,000 hours of dermatology nursing in the past two years.
What are additional requirements of dermatology nurses?
Nurses who enter the field of dermatology should be prepared to help patients understand their skin conditions and appropriate skin care. They may also need to help their patients set reasonable cosmetic goals, as some patients have unrealistic expectations for cosmetic dermatologic procedures.
What are the salary and career outlooks for dermatology nurses?
Nursing is a growing field with high demand. Nurses who enter dermatology nursing can anticipate steady growth and opportunities for advancement.
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for all nurses is $82,750 annually. This varies based on geographic location, setting, and years of experience.
Nurses who work in conventional dermatology typically earn $60,792 per year. While this is lower than the average salary for nurses, this work may offer other benefits like regular hours and a slower pace. Additional years of experience and certifications can help you negotiate for a higher salary.
Nurses specializing in wound care or burns often have advanced knowledge and years of experience that can command higher salaries. Burn unit nurses earn on average $98,511 per year.
Nurses who specialize in cosmetic dermatology have a very high earning potential. The average cosmetic dermatology nurse earns $107,335 per year, with the potential to earn much more depending on the city and office where you work.
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There is great potential for job satisfaction within dermatology nursing.
Many nurses who turn to dermatology nursing appreciate the regular hours. This field generally involves more favorable outcomes compared to med-surg or critical care nursing, so dermatology can be a good fit for nurses dealing with burn-out after working in other areas of nursing.
Nurses who choose specialized areas like cosmetic dermatology or plastic surgery may also appreciate higher-than-average salaries while maintaining a good work-life balance.
Nurses interested in furthering their careers in dermatology may consider becoming a Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner. Dermatology nurses can also acquire advanced certifications in skills like laser treatments.
Dermatology nurses can also advance their careers by:
- Acquiring additional years of experience
- Specializing in fields that require advanced nursing care
- Obtaining specialty certifications
- Precepting and mentoring new nurses
- Taking on additional responsibilities as a charge nurse or supervisor
- Working in education, research, or academia
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- Burn Nurse Salary Calculator. Ziprecruiter. Accessed July 7, 2022.
- Certification. Dermatology Nurses’ Association. Accessed July 6, 2022.
- Cosmetic Dermatology Nurse Salary Calculator. Glassdoor.com. Accessed July 7, 2022.
- Dermatology Nurse Salary Calculator. Ziprecruiter. Accessed July 7, 2022.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 6, 2022.
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