When a skin care professional puts gloves on before a treatment, it is to protect themselves from the client, not necessarily to protect the client. The same thing goes for consent forms. While the forms serve as a way to clearly inform the client of their risks and alternatives to the treatments, they ultimately protect the skin care professional. This article will discuss some of the often over-looked things skin care professionals can do to protect themselves and their aesthetic businesses from lawsuits.
The first issues to be aware of are the regulations imposed by the state, the state board of cosmetology, and the state health department. They will each have their own regulations, which are constantly evolving and every state is different, so keep that in mind if moving. These boards will check things at your location such as an adequate ventilation system, hot and cold running water, drinking water, a hand washing facility, and public toilets. Some states have a minimum square footage requirement per aesthetician chair or work station that will need to be checked, as well. If working out of a house, a separate entrance with outside signage may be required. These are some of the easiest obstacles to overcome because they are laid out in a handbook. Simply call the state board and request a copy, as well as a walk-through, before opening the doors for business.
The second issue to plan for is insurance. There are three different types of liability insurance to make sure a policy covers. The first is general liability, which is referred to as slip-and-fall coverage. This protects the skin care professional from accidents that happen in the building. The second is product liability, which covers the items used in the office, and the third is malpractice or professional liability insurance, which covers the skin care professional and the procedures performed. It is important to make sure that these cover the skin care professional and any and all employees. Each employee may need to take out their own policies. One thing that is often over-looked with these policies is that they may not cover the skin care professional if they are performing a procedure at a location other than the spa. For instance, home parties or mobile services at another spa or even event venue, like a wedding, may not be covered. While these may be popular, fun, and financially lucrative, they could be putting the skin care professional at risk if they are not covered in the liability insurance and consent forms.
When acquiring the insurance policy, or if a claim is ever made, the insurance company may require a copy of your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The business’ standard operating procedure is the handbook for how every procedure and foreseeable situation can be handled in the office. From the moment the phone rings, there is a protocol for how that is handled. When a new client comes in for a consultation, there is a protocol for their appointment and follow-up. How to perform each procedure from start to finish, after-care, and addressing adverse events should be included. For example, it needs to be in writing what to do if there is an allergic reaction. How long do you wash the peel or mask off? Two minutes, five minutes, or 10 minutes? What product do you apply afterwards? Who do you call? And, most importantly, how do you ensure allergic reactions do not happen? Do you ask the client every time they come in if they have any allergies? Do you require employees to look at their chart at very visit? Are allergies written in bold, yellow, or red? All of these need to be addressed in the standard operating procedure, so staff have clear guidelines on what to do. Showing that you have a standard operating procedure and that it is followed will help protect the skin care professional if and when they need it.
Another way to remain protected is by trying potential employees out on a trial bases before hiring them. Make sure they will be someone that will respect and follow the standard operating procedure. Also, ensure they can perform the procedures they say they can up to the correct standards. Even if references are called, you need to see with your own eyes that they can perform the required duties. Have them sit down with another staff member or a hired model and observe the treatment. Next, have them perform a treatment on you, if possible. Do this before training starts on any private protocols and techniques. While it may seem like a financial burden in the beginning to spend this much time interviewing a new hire, it will be worth it in the long run to hire the right person. Something else to do within the first month of a new hire is have a secret shopper get a treatment with them. This is not only a great way to get a detailed account of how their time with the new hire was, but also with the entire organization. Being able to provide this feedback in a constructive way with the team is invaluable.
Equipment is another thing that can be over-looked or forgotten about that could harm a client and initiate lawsuit. For example, there have been complaints where magnifying lamps have fallen on clients’ faces and even injured eyes. Checking all the screws and bolts of chairs and tables needs to happen frequently, so they do not collapse with a client in them. There is nothing more aggravating than finding a random screw or washer on the floor. Steamers can be a liability if they start sputtering out boiling water instead of a steady stream of steam, and even placing the steamer too close to the client can be an issue. Burning of the skin is a common reason for lawsuits, as a burn can leave scabs, scarring, and hyper- or hypopigmentation. And, one of the most common reasons for burns is from hair removal wax being too hot. Checking the temperature settings on wax warmers, reviewing the acid content and expiration dates on chemical peels, and making sure that a laser is calibrated, and settings are followed according to the standard operating procedure, all need to happen on a daily basis.
Paying attention to the small things, the details, and knowing how to handle them in a calm and appropriate manner is what will help protect the skin care professional. Noticing that tiny hint of pink on a client’s skin, smelling that smell of burning, or seeing the client is uncomfortable or itching are issues that should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid harming clients, keeping you both safe.
Erin Lucie, DNP, FNP-C, owner of Luminate Clinic, an Oklahoma native, is a family nurse practitioner and licensed cosmetologist with over 15 years’ experience in the aesthetic industry. Known in Tulsa as an expert cosmetic injector, she completed her Botox and filler training in Beverly Hills, California in 2011 and has attended many advanced trainings since. She has further specialized in optimizing and balancing the hormone dysfunction created by stress and the overwhelming life management issues relating to all professionals by providing clients with integrative options in health, lifestyle, medication, and appearance enhancement. Lucie is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.