When considering a cosmetic procedure, it is so important to find the right doctor for you. This is a procedure that can last you a lifetime, and you want to be completely confident in the doctor you choose to work with. Throughout the entire research process, you should maintain a healthy dose of skepticism as you vet prospective doctors. As the number of people choosing plastic surgery procedures has increased over the years, unfortunately so has the number of unqualified physicians claiming to be experts in the aesthetics procedure industry. Follow the seven steps below to ensure you are selecting the right doctor for your procedure.
1. Confirm Credentials
For a plastic surgeon, board certification is critical. Unknown to most, in the United States, state medical boards do not require the surgeon to be specifically trained in the surgical procedure he or she offers. In other words, if a general surgeon one day decides he or she wants to start practicing cosmetic surgery instead of general surgery, he or she can! The board certification guarantees that the surgeon has been trained specifically in cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries. When consulting with potential surgeons, ensure they are board certified in plastic surgery as a first step. They should be board certified and members of either the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), or the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS).
Similarly, a certificate from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and accreditation from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) ensures that doctors have received specialized training in the field of dermatology and cosmetic dentistry, respectively.
Ask: Are you board certified and a member of any professional organizations? How long have you been in practice? If you are not a member of a professional organization, why is that?
2. Make Sure the Physician Is Skilled in the Procedure You Want
Once you have confirmed their credentials, the next step is to inquire about the doctor’s experience with specific procedures. If you are looking to get a nose job, you want to make sure that the plastic surgeon you work with has plenty of experience performing nose jobs. While some of the knowledge is transferable, each feature has unique properties, requiring a completely different set of skills. For instance, facial plastic surgery would require the cosmetic surgeon to work with bone, cartilage, and potentially breathing passages whereas breast reconstruction is mostly soft tissue. The surgical techniques a plastic surgeon would use on soft tissue vary significantly from those used on bone or cartilage.
Take a step back for a second. If you (or a friend or child) needed a tutor to prepare for a history exam, would you hire an English teacher or a history teacher? While they are both teachers, the history teacher is an expert in the subject, whereas the English teacher is less familiar. Opt for a doctor who is a specialist or has substantial experience in the procedure you are considering. A physician who names specific treatments, like Botox®, veneers, or breast augmentation, will likely be a better fit compared to someone who claims to do all procedures equally as well.
Ask: What did your training entail for the procedure I am considering? How long have you been performing this procedure? How many times have you performed this procedure?
3. Choose a Doctor Whose Past Work Appeals to You
You’ve found a doctor with top credentials and who is skilled in the procedure you are considering, but do you like his or her aesthetic? It is so important that both you and the physician are aligned on what a successful procedure will look like. For instance, some plastic surgeons may like more turned up noses whereas others may not. Once you have an idea of what your ideal outcome will look like, begin browsing the before and after photos on doctors’ websites. If available, pay close attention to the before and after photos of patients with similar features to yours. This will give you a good insight into the doctor’s consistency and how you may look after the procedure.
Ask: In addition to what is online, do you have any before and after photos of patients with similar features to me? Would you be able to show me how I might look post-procedure? Have you ever had a patient be disappointed with their results?
4. Inquire About the Operating Facility
One factor that should not be overlooked is the safety of the surgical facility. When undergoing cosmetic surgery, you are not only working with the plastic surgeon but also an entire operating team and anesthetist. Accredited surgical centers adhere to strict standards, such as sanitation, staff, and equipment, to maximize patient safety. Accreditation is granted by passing regular inspections and submitting thorough records of the facility’s policies. With an accredited operating facility, you can expect qualified staff, a sterile operating room, anesthesia monitoring devices, and the up to date equipment for emergency situations and patient care. Look for facility accreditation certificates from organizations such as the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) or the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), and for an anesthetist who is either a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or an anesthesiologist who is board certified in Anesthesiology. Additionally, when discussing the operating facility, you will want to see if the prospective plastic surgeon has hospital privileges to perform the considered procedure. If the plastic surgeon is only able to do the procedure in the surgeon’s office then that can be a red flag.
Ask: Where do you perform surgery and what is the facility’s level of accreditation? What is the anesthetist/anesthesiologist’s level of training? Have you and your team handled emergency situations in the past?
5. Assess Bedside Manner and Personality Fit
Aside from poor results, the last thing you want is a pushy or rude physician. With such a life-changing procedure, it is essential that you feel comfortable enough to express concerns or ask questions. A good plastic surgeon, cosmetic dentist or dermatologist will allow you to take your time as you absorb all of the new information and will lay out all of the pros and cons of each procedure type so you can make the most informed decision. Realistically, there is no one perfect procedure and doctors must be open about the potential drawbacks of each option.
As you start scheduling consultations, take note of the doctor’s availability. If the schedule is wide open, that could be a negative sign. Typically, Mondays and Tuesdays are the busiest days for cosmetic physicians. If your schedule allows it, try to book your consultation for a Monday or Tuesday to gauge how much demand the doctor has. More so, speak to other patients in the waiting room about their experience with the doctor to get candid and honest feedback. If you are unable to get in-person insight, you can also read online reviews and forums. A certificate from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is another positive indicator as you research doctors. ABMS certifies that doctors carry out responsibilities safely and ethically as well as demonstrate empathy towards patients to provide optimal health care.
Ask: What are some risks associated with this procedure? What should I be most concerned about? Have you ever had issues during a procedure and how did you deal with it?
6. Consider Location
While it is important to work with a professional you trust, you want to ensure that the location is convenient as well. This is particularly important for invasive procedures, like a breast augmentation or tummy tuck. With larger surgeries, you want to make sure that you will be near a family member or friend who will be able to pick you up from the surgery and act as a caregiver. Discuss with your doctor ahead of time what post-procedure and recovery time will look like.
Ask: Will I need a family member or a friend to pick me up from the procedure afterwards?**How long can I expect the recovery time to be? “What will I need to have at home to help ease my recovery?”
7. Review Pricing
Expenses certainly matter, but this is not an investment to be stingy on. Keep in mind that “inexpensive” surgeries can turn costly if the end result is unsatisfactory. If the outcome is not right, reconstructive surgery may be needed, which can quickly increase the overall cost. That is why it is critical to get the results right the first time.
Discuss pricing with the physician ahead of time and ask for a breakdown of all charges. In addition to the surgeon’s fee, you can expect fees for the operating room, anesthesia, and other services. Compare prices among different doctors to gauge what is reasonable for your desired procedure.
Ask: Are there any additional charges to the surgery fee? What can I expect as the total cost for the procedure? Will my insurance cover any of the fees?
The most important thing to remember is to take your time in making a decision. While it can be a lengthy and labor-intensive search, do not settle. Keep looking until you find a well-respected and board certified doctor that has the exact aesthetic you desire and has proper bedside manner. Cosmetic procedures can be absolutely transformative and life-changing when done properly, so remember not to rush!
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