What is Board Certification, Why Does It Matter?

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You may have heard the term "board certified" used when discussing plastic surgeons, but you may not know what that is- or if it really matters. After all, you can save a lot of money going abroad for surgery or to a spa for Botox injections from someone who isn’t board certified.  So, what’s the big difference between board certified, board eligible, and not- and do those credentials really justify the difference in cost for the same procedure?

In order to practice any kind of medicine here in the United States, a doctor must be licensed in the state or states that they practice in. But just because a doctor holds a valid medical license, does not mean he or she is board certified in a medical specialty. Board certification is a voluntary certification that means a doctor has undergone additional training in a specific field and has completed an additional evaluation process beyond the licensing process in his or her field. Board certification is usually peer-conducted and is not a ‘one-time’ thing. Doctors who undergo the rigorous process of board certification must complete additional internships and both written and oral testing following their training. Once they pass their testing, the doctor must continue to attend training and keep current with the newest advances in their field in order to remain board certified.  Board certified doctors must also adhere to board standards and best practices. To do so could be a violation of their certification, and could be grounds for having that certification revoked.

 

 The purpose of board certification is to add an extra level of security to a doctor’s credentials beyond simply being licensed to practice. When a patient sees that his or her doctor is board certified, they can rest assured that their practitioner is well-versed in the most current science and adheres to all ethics and best practices in their field.  They can also rest assured that if a doctor violates the best practices set forth by the board, they can lose their board certification, and possibly their license. This helps not just the doctor to keep current on his or her education but should reassure the patient that their doctor is current in his or her methods, and compliant with laws and ethics.

So, what about ‘board eligible?’ You may have heard the term board eligible before, too, and wondered how this differs from board certification. Some doctors will actually tout being board eligible as if it’s just as good as being board certified. However, this can be deceiving. Board eligible can mean one of two things: that a doctor has undergone the training for board certification and passed the test and their official certification is pending, or they have undergone the training and failed the test but did not (and may never) retake it.

If you are unsure which category your doctor fits into, you can call the board and request more information. Remember, just because a doctor is board eligible doesn’t mean they are any less qualified than board certified- after all, they have completed the training. That’s why it is recommended that patients do their homework before choosing a doctor- especially in plastic surgery. If you are comfortable with the doctor despite their lack of official board certification, or if their certification is pending, you are free to choose that doctor.

So, what about med spas and salons that offer cosmetic procedures like Botox or Juvederm by an esthetician who is licensed but not board certified and not a doctor? We recommend you avoid them entirely, for several reasons.  First of all, they are not doctors. When these professionals learn how to give injections, they are taking a training course from a drug representative. Doctors take that same class, but they also have years of medical training and have a much deeper understanding of how the muscles and tissues of the face behave. All it takes is one wrong move or one piece of improperly sterilized equipment or improperly stored filler, and you could be looking at permanent or life-threatening injuries. On the other hand, if something does go wrong under the care of a doctor, the doctor is trained to assist you. If you go to a salon for Botox and have a dangerous reaction, your esthetician cannot prescribe medication, and in the case of extreme reactions, may not be able to resuscitate you or have emergency medicine on hand. 

Not as dangerous as seeing an aesthetician for Botox is getting treated by a dentist or another practitioner who may be a licensed doctor but has no training in cosmetic procedures. They may lack the advanced training in facial plastic surgery to inject fillers properly and can leave you looking very odd until the effects wear off. As for foreign plastic surgeons, unless their licensing country has its own board certification that can be easily verified, we caution against going that route.

Remember, here in the US, too many horror stories make headlines each year about patients who thought they’d save a few bucks by opting for unlicensed or uncertified ‘cheap’ plastic surgery. Whoever you decide to choose as your surgeon, please do your research and make sure they are at very least currently licensed and board eligible. Give us a call at Contours and Curves (702) 430-1198. Dr. Ryan Mitchell will be happy to answer all of your questions.

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