Who doesn’t love clear, brilliant skin? While many people assume a dermatologist is one that primarily clears problem skin areas, these dynamic skin professionals tend to a whole scope of issues plaguing the largest human organ.
Although the majority of people think that the only way to work within this specialization is to undergo a massive amount of schooling to become a dermatologist, there is another avenue capable of intertwining your love of skin and healthcare: dermatology nursing.
If you’re interested in becoming a dermatology nurse, or simply wish to learn more about this relatively new and exciting career option, then you’ve come to the right place. The following information outlines not only the generalized job functions of a dermatology nurse, but also how you can go from an aspiring dermatological professional to a working nurse in one of the hottest fields today.
Beyond Skin Deep – Investigating Dermatology Nursing
As you can imagine, a dermatology nurse is a specialized profession dealing with human skin. Unlike a general Registered Nurse, who tends to patients in a non-specific medical setting, these specially trained nurses provide high-level nursing care for patients with wounds, injuries, diseases and other complications pertaining with the skin.
Much like any other nursing specialty, dermatology nurses are able to work in a wide variety of medical facilities. While the most common employer are private practices for dermatologists, these nurses may also find employment in specialty clinics, such as plastic surgeon offices, infusion centers, burn centers and even hospitals.
One of the coolest aspects of this nursing specialty is its workplace variety. For example, if you are fascinated with cosmetic procedures, then you can narrow your studies and experience toward this cutting edge discipline. On the other hand, if you enjoy the unexpected nature of emergency room and critical care units, then working in a hospital burn unit or infusion center may be your ideal environment.
When it comes to defining the daily duties and scope of practice of a dermatology nurse, it’s important to note that each state features unique rules and regulations. Essentially, this means it’s possible that a dermatology nurse in one state may be allowed to perform a specific function, but forbidden in another state.
Considering this, there are several universal job duties common among all dermatology nurses:
- Assist dermatologists and physicians during skin examinations for injuries, such as severe burns, and diseases, such as skin cancer and bacterial infections.
- Record and update patient charts and other essential documentation throughout their treatment and/or hospital stay. This is an essential function of the dermatology nurse as documentation is vital for the continued care and treatment of patients.
- Provide comprehensive pre and post-surgery care based upon the specific treatment and patient condition. While these duties are specifically geared toward skin-related procedures, the fundamental principles are the same for all Registered Nurses.
- Assist dermatologists and physicians throughout treatments and procedures. This is universal regardless of facility specialty. For example, you may be required to assist with skin transplants for burn victims or help ensure a smooth and efficient cosmetic procedure for elective plastic surgery patients.
- Provide detailed and invaluable counseling and patient education regarding skincare and prevention techniques.
- Act as a liaison between the dermatologist, medical team and patient family members throughout patient treatment and recovery.
Average Dermatology Nurse Salary Range and Job Outlook
Because dermatology nurses can work in a wide array of clinics and sub-specialties, salaries for this profession can dramatically vary. Keeping in mind that salary expectations are also dependent on geographical locations and experience level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for dermatology nurses is just over $50,000 per year, or just under $25 per hour.
Unfortunately, data regarding dermatology nurse pay ranges is relatively scarce. While the aforementioned figure is generally accepted as the average, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Registered Nurses earn just under $70,000 per year, or $32.91 per hour. It’s safe to assume that you’ll likely earn closer to this figure rather than the aforementioned sum.
As with any nursing specialty, the forecasted job growth for this career is quite amazing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing as a whole is projected to grow by 16 percent by the year 2024. While this is impressive within itself, other forecast models project the growth to be up to 30 percent during this same time period.
In terms of securing a job as a dermatology nurse, you may find it necessary to relocate to larger cities. For example, smaller cities and more rural states will have less need for this specialty. Because of this, you’ll likely find competition to be quite intense.
However, if you move to a more densely populated state, such as California or Massachusetts, you’ll find greater opportunities. As an added bonus, nurses in these states tend to earn substantially more annual income than those in more rural areas.
The Path of Skin Specialties – Becoming a Dermatology Nurse
The foundation of this nursing specialty is just like any other. You must first earn your Registered Nurse license by completing an associates (ADN) degree or a bachelors (BSN) degree from an accredited college. From here, you must pass the national NCLEX-RN licensing examination and maintain an active license by performing your state’s unique continuing education requirements. Some dermatology nurses start out as regular RN’s or even as certified nursing assistants.
While the two-year ADN degree program is quicker and more affordable than a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you’ll likely find the extra time and cost pays off in more ways than one. As a general rule of thumb, i you wish to work in any nursing specialty, you should strive to earn your BSN degree.
Not only does this degree offer a greater scope of understanding in regards to nursing, but it’s often required to work in related medical facilities, such as hospitals and private practices. Of course, not everyone can afford to immediately go about this expedited route.
In this instance, you’ll want to earn your Registered Nurse license via the ADN degree program and eventually enroll in an RN-BSN Bridge Program. These unique learning modules leverage your previous training and work experience to accelerate your way into a BSN. Discuss this option with your employer, as some facilities provide tuition reimbursement. On average, the RN-BSN Bridge Program can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 years to complete.
Specialization Requires Special Experience & Certification
As with any other nursing specialization, in order to officially begin working as a dermatology nurse, you must expand your education and designations.
As of 2018, the leading certifying organization for this nursing specialty is the Dermatology Nurses’ Association, or DNA. This nationwide organization not only oversees the work and implementation of dermatology nursing, but provides the necessary credentials.
While not necessary to perform the duties of this position, it’s generally recommended that all aspiring dermatology nurses pass the Dermatology Nursing Certification Examination, or DNC. Not only does this certification designate you as a professional dermatology nurse, but it offers greater access to job opportunities and higher pay.
In order to qualify for the DNC exam, you must meet the following qualifications:
- Have at least 24 consecutive months of working as a Registered Nurse (RN) within a dermatology-centric unit or clinic.
- Maintain a current, unrestricted and active RN license in either the United States or Canada.
- Provide documented proof that you’ve worked at least 2,000 hours in the role of a dermatology nurse within the previous 24-months. This can be in a clinical, teaching, research or administrative capacity.
The DNC examination is notoriously difficult, and covers a range of topics that are specific to this specialization. Be prepared to spend roughly $300 for the exam, but don’t worry, the majority of employers reimburse or completely cover examination testing fees.
Noting that exam contents and structure may change at any time, the average test consists of 175 questions. Test takers have four hours to complete the exam, which covers topics such as wounds, ulcers, acne/rosacea, infections, dermatitis, tumors and other skin-specific topics.
Along with the standard DNC credential, there are also several other sub-specialty certification exams available to professional nurses. These certifications typically involve cosmetic dermatology and often require additional training and experience.
Continuing Education and Further Information
Although the majority of State Boards of Nursing don’t have explicit Continuing Education (CE) requirements for dermatology nurses, in order to maintain your DNC certification, you must earn at least 45 CE hours. Out of these hours, 30 must be specifically related to dermatology.
In terms of state mandated CE requirements, these significantly vary based upon state nursing regulations. For example, Pennsylvania requires a minimum of 30 CE hours every two years to keep an RN license active, but Arizona and Colorado don’t have such requirements.
If you’re interested in learning more about your state’s nursing requirements, contact your State Board of Nursing and be sure to regularly review the requirements and updated qualifications provided by the Dermatology Nurses’ Association.