By Patrick O’Brien, JD, legal coordinator, American Med Spa Association
In this space, we previously have discussed the importance of getting high-quality training and instruction in every procedure you perform, but lately some AmSpa members have asked us if laser and injector courses that offer “certification” are better than “regular” training courses. The short answer is that, for the most part, there is not any recognized certifying or governing body in the medical spa world, so having “certification” in this context may not add much value.
What Is a Certification?
A certification or certificate is essentially a piece of paper. A high school diploma is a certification—it is your high school “certifying” that you attended the required classes and achieved the minimum grades to graduate. However, it does not by itself make a statement about what you learned or how well you really did; after all, the valedictorian gets the same piece of paper as the “C” student. Instead, certifications achieve their value through what other people think of them. This is why a degree from Harvard is more likely to land you a job than one from a regional university; they both may offer fine educations, but one has built a reputation for education that is widely recognized, while the other is not as well known.
It is the same case with certifications for medical spa procedures. A training “certification” is merely a piece of paper saying you attended the training—it does not speak to what you learned. Part of the value of any training comes from the reputation of the instructor or the company that is offering the course. A device manufacturer may offer certifications for their devices, and it may carry more weight than a third-party training, at least in terms of public perception. Conversely, a third-party master class on a single procedure may be more useful than the general device manufacturer’s certification. Like many things, it all depends on context.
As we discussed in a previous article, all the training in the world does not matter if you aren’t legally allowed to perform the task. Similarly, a certificate or certification isn’t going to matter if the regulatory body doesn’t accept or require it. Most state medical and nurse licensing boards recognize the board-certified specialties that are granted by national organizations such as the American Board of Physician Specialties and the American Board of Medical Specialties. In addition, some states require that you attend a specific approved certification course to be a laser technician or medical assistant. These certifications are important because the regulatory body both recognizes and requires them. However, there presently is no nationally recognized accrediting body for medical aesthetic procedures.
State nursing and medical boards are not looking for “certification” in injecting, lasers or PRP—they are looking for documentation of the training and evidence that the training was appropriate. For example, the Oregon State Board of Nursing, which we discussed previously, requires that nurses maintain and provide “evidence of documented education in cosmetics nursing practice and for each cosmetic procedure performed.” The Texas Medical Board requires that physicians keep records of their training in each non-surgical medical cosmetic procedure they perform or delegate, and that training must be appropriate and include a “hands-on” component. Most medical and nursing licensing boards share similar rules.
Do not fall for hype or meaningless marketing terms; instead, look for well-respected and skilled instructors and seek curricula that fit your needs and skill level. Every trainer should be able to verify that you attended his or her course and what was taught there. What matters most is the quality of training you receive—not buzzwords such as “certified,” “specialist,” “approved” or “master.” After all, a licensing board will not care if you are “certified in x” when it is investigating your training credentials and competency.