The dos and don'ts of choosing a cosmetic surgeon

When you're choosing which surgeon will perform your cosmetic procedure, it's best to know a few things first.

Whether you're going to get something major or minor done, there's a few things you should be aware of beforehand that can help you decide on which doctor to see.

Cosmetic Physician, Dr Phoebe Jones, outlines some things we should be asking or researching priaor to signing on the dotted line. While Dr Jones says that her qualifications and scope differ to both plastic and cosmetic surgeons, she provides some insight to help inform you of what's out there and what the difference is between each type of doctor. 

What's the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgeons and cosmetic physicists?

"Plastic surgeons are recognised members of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. This means they spent a minimum of five years with formal training in a public teaching hospital and had to pass some tough exams. These doctors have good knowledge of surgical principles, anatomy and know how to recognise and manage unwell patients - they don’t learn much cosmetic surgery during their training.

"If cosmetic surgery is part of their practice, they have learnt these techniques through reading, courses, observation, surgical assisting and fellowships. During a consultation it is important to ask exactly how they learnt the procedure, and exactly how many times they’ve actually performed the cosmetic procedure you are seeking.

"There is a bit more of a grey area with cosmetic surgeons. They could come from a formal surgical background. Some have formal training recognised by The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons or a similar organisation in another country; or they could come from a General Practitioner background.

"There are several different cosmetic surgical fellowships that are available within Australia and worldwide. With these doctors, it’s important to clarify their qualifications and if they are part of any colleges. If so, what are the requirements to become part of these colleges? In consultation you can ask how they learnt the procedure you’re interested in, how long they’ve been performing it, how many they’ve done, their complication rate, what the risks are, and how things will be handled in the event of a complication.

"Similarly, to cosmetic surgeons, cosmetic physicists can come from a variety of medical backgrounds. The scope of work tends to be limited to more minimally invasive procedures such as injectables, lasers, etc. Again, find out their qualifications, how long they’ve been doing this particular job, how many days a week they do cosmetics, how they learnt, if they attend conferences and courses, complication rates, etc."

How do you know if the doctor is right for you?

"Follow your instincts. If you don’t like the doctor or you don’t feel like they are being transparent you don’t need to continue seeing them. Cosmetic work is optional anyway and you can request to see before and after photos.

"It’s also important to remember that all doctors that do procedural work experience complications. The difference between a good and a poor doctor is in how they handle the complication. A good doctor should recognise it, communicate with the patient about it, and immediately take action to rectify the issue."

Dos and don'ts

Value word of mouth

"Positive or negative, word of mouth can be really valuable when finding a cosmetic injector, you can trust. Particularly if it is from someone whose opinion you respect. If you can see that the work they’ve had done is of a high quality then this can help point you in the direction of a respectable practitioner. I, however, would not rely on word of mouth alone as it’s necessary to do a bit more detective work."

Do pay attention when meeting your practitioner

"When meeting your practitioner for the first time be sure to pay attention to a few key things. Are they listening to your concerns? Are they happy to answer questions? Are they transparent when you ask about the pros and cons? Are they happy for you to go away and consider whether or not you want the treatment? Or are they really pushy?

"It’s important to remember that no cosmetic work is really necessary or time sensitive. Go with your gut. If you’re not comfortable, don’t do it or at least take some time to decide. Any good injector won’t mind or take offense if you say that you’re not quite ready."

Don’t go chasing cheap deals or specials

"Don’t be driven by price. Although cosmetic treatments are in the beauty realm, it is still a medical procedure and it is illegal and unethical to incentivise people to have them done. When you find a practitioner with an aesthetic you like and trust, try to stick with them. A good practitioner will do their best to help you get the most out of your budget and achieve consistent long terms results."

Don’t have treatments done outside of a clinic setting

"For safety purposes, I would not recommend having any cosmetic treatments performed outside of a cosmetic clinic or a doctors office. Treatments performed outside of these settings (e.g. in homes or hotel rooms), present a less favourable situation when things go wrong. An environment with appropriate medications and trained staff available, ensures you are in the best hands possible."

Don’t be afraid to google them

"Google is your friend. Look at the website of the clinic the practitioner works at. Is it a legitimate business? Is it part of a specialised cosmetic clinic? Does the website list their practitioners? The website should have the full names, job description and a photo of the cosmetic practitioners. In Australia, you can look them up on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website and see whether their registration is current, whether they have any restrictions and their general credentials. In Australia, if they are not listed as a nurse, doctor or a dentist, you should be suspicious."

Watch or stream Surgeons at the Edge of Life, Mondays at 8.30pm on Lifestyle.

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