What is a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?

The approved definition of a Derm NP, according to the Dermatology NP Coalition is “… an advanced practice registered nurse licensed as a nurse practitioner who specializes in the assessment, diagnosis, management, and advocacy of individuals and communities with health and illness of the hair, skin, and nails.” The number of nurse practitioners (NPs) specializing in dermatology is briskly climbing, with over 5,000 in the US in 2022. The role of a derm nurse practitioner amalgamates patient advocate, clinician, and educator and is one of the higher-paid specializations for an NP.

What Does a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Do?

Dermatology NPs are specialists in medical conditions and diseases that affect the hair, skin, and nails. They often work as part of a dermatology team, and they assess, diagnose, and treat acute and chronic dermatological issues both medically and surgically. They usually function at the provider level, and depending on the setting they work in, their responsibilities may vary greatly. For instance, Derm NPs in a clinical practice see patients with varying conditions from acne to psoriasis to skin cancer. They order, perform, and interpret tests, may order or perform skin biopsies, and they may provide preventative care, education, and perform screening exams. They may perform skin excisions such as mole removal or provide cryotherapy. Dermatology Nurse practitioners who work in a setting involving aesthetics administer cosmetic treatments such as dermal fillers, laser treatments and neuromodulator injections such as Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin. In a hospital setting Derm NPs may participate in clinical rounds, work in burn units, and provide guidance and support for hospital staff caring for serious dermatological disorders such as pemphigus vulgaris or drug reactions, i.e., toxic epidermal necrolysis and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Where Do Dermatology Nurse Practitioners Work?

Most Derm NPs work in the private sector. Many Dermatology Nurse Practitioners are staff members at physician practices and dermatology clinics. A growing number of states allow full practice authority (FPA) and permit nurse practitioners to deliver patients care without physician supervision, and more and more Dermatology NPs are opening their own practices. They can specialize in aesthetic procedures, sometimes called an Aesthetic NP, and work in cosmetic surgeon and plastic surgery offices, and medical spas. They can be employed in hospitals and medical centers, where they consult and treat and patients with serious dermatological conditions. Universities hire dermatology nurse practitioners to provide dermatological education in medical and nursing schools. Companies also employ Derm NPs for skin-related telehealth appointments, and insurance companies offer roles in research for drugs used in dermatological conditions.  

What Are Typical Hours For a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?

Just as derm NPs duties can vary depending on their work setting, their hours can vary as well. If they are employed in a clinical office, whether it is a dermatologist clinic, physician practice, or their own practice, it can differ region to region but often comprise of regular hours from 8 or 9am to 5 or 6pm Monday through Friday and sometimes Saturday hours as well. Like any specialty, dermatology can have emergencies, though they are not common, but this could cause after-hours needs. Hospitals and medical centers can have different shifts, which can range from 8-12 hours, with day shifts usually starting around 7am but can start as early as 5am, and can last into the evening at 7pm. Night shifts can often begin between 6:30 and 7pm and last overnight until 7am. Day and night shifts have different pros and cons, with day shifts being more fast-paced, offering more access to leaning opportunities and interactions with other staff and patients, and also allowing regular sleeping habits. Night shifts often offer a slower pace and more time to spend with patients.

There are varied routes to becoming a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner. NPs can try to land a job in a dermatology clinic that is willing to train them without experience, where they can receive on-the-job training. There are a small number of dermatology residencies for nurse practitioners available, though this is not a requirement to enter the field. If a nurse practitioner knows they are committed to the specialty, they can seek out formal training that can help them achieve their career goals. They can enroll in a dermatology nurse practitioner training program, such as CoreMedSource’s Dermatology Core Curriculum, or a Dermatology Postgraduate Certificate Program such as NADNP’s Post-Masters Certificate Program, which will make them more marketable when searching for a job in dermatology.