Yes! You! CANS! Connie Brennan Explains Why Aesthetic Nursing’s Accreditation Is a Big Deal

Connie Brennan wearing black turtle neck in headshotIn the world of aesthetic treatments, adding CANS to the alphabet soup behind your name is a big deal.  It shows you’re an experienced nurse, you’ve got a physician’s seal of approval, and you passed a test that—let’s be honest—is pretty hard.

But the whole process is still relatively new.

CANS began as a certification from the International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses (ISPAN) circa 2013, driven by powerhouse injectors like Connie Brennan, (APRN, AGNP-BC, PHN, CANS, CPSN, ISPAN-F and one of the top 100 aesthetic injectors in America). 

Connie started working as a registered nurse in the early 90s, and began offering aesthetic injections and treatments in the mid 90s—long before continuing training and specializations in the field were widely available.

“What people don’t understand is that just because you have a certificate in aesthetic procedures training, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve mastered anything,” she says.

CANS, however, tells the world that you have invested in studying to become an expert. That type of recognition is something Connie and other nurses have worked to create for a long time.

“Years ago, there was a small group of aesthetic nurses who dreamed of creating an aesthetic certification that was nationally recognized,” she explains. “These nurses worked tirelessly with the Plastic Surgery Nursing Certification Board to write this exam, rewrite this exam, run pilot tests, write evidence-based curriculum to support it, and create review courses to help the test takers.”

In May, their dream became a reality, and the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC)—a.k.a. the mothership of nursing—gave CANS its official blessing, elevating it to a nursing specialization.

Intrigued? Keep reading for the what, who, and how of CANS.

What is CANS?

CANS stands for Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist. It’s the first and only national certification for aesthetic nurses, and it shows the world you know your stuff when it comes to laser, skincare, fillers, and neuromodulators. The ABSNC grants the CANS designation, and CANS nurses have to recertify every three years.

Who can become CANS-certified?

Only RNs and NPs in the US, US territories, or Canada can sit for the test. (Yes, Canada can CANS!)

But wait, there’s more! Let’s take this one to a checklist.

To qualify, nurses must:

  • Work in one of the four core specialties: Plastic/Aesthetic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, or Facial Plastic Surgery (ENT)
  • Have at least two years of experience in a core area
  • Be supervised by a core physician
  • Complete at least 1,000 practice hours in the last two years.

Whew. That’s a lot, right?

michelle jones standing in white lab coat with arms crossed

How to join the CANS squad

First-timers start the process here on the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board website. There’s a written application, and, of course, the test. If you don’t pass the first time, try, try again! You can re-take it within a year for a reduced fee.

(Pro-tip: ISPAN members get discounted testing fees.)

Of course, you want to pass, and CANS insiders have some tips for making that happen. Connie suggests timing your exam with the annual ISPAN meeting. That way, you’ll get a focused review course, two days of learning and lectures, and the material will be fresh in your head before sitting for the test.


Can you be a great practitioner without a CANS certification? Absolutely! But CANS is a badge you can proudly wear when marketing to new clients, tapping into opportunities as an aesthetic educator, and accelerating your career. If you’re a nurse working with a physician in one of the core practice areas, CANS is a smart way to prove your expertise.

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