The Diabetes Educator – Sharing Knowledge

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, a diabetes educator can play a key role in the management of your disease. Fewer than half of the people who are diagnosed with diabetes attend any form of self-management diabetes training, and that can lessen their chances of living a normal life. Learning about the disease is an important part of managing diabetes.

The Diabetes Educator

A diabetes educator will teach you the skills you need to change behaviors and manage your condition successfully. The lessons you learn will enable you to achieve your optimal health while reducing diabetes related complications that include heart disease, renal disease, loss of limbs and feet, and even vision loss. Working with your diabetes educator can greatly lower your health costs and improve your lifestyle.

What is a diabetes educator? Professionals focusing on teaching and training people who have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes are known as diabetes educators.[1] They work with their patients to make lifestyle changes that lead to improved diabetic health.

Diabetic educators are specifically trained in the field of diabetics, but come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Your diabetic educator may be a registered nurse, a physician, a pharmacist, a mental health professional, a podiatrist, or other health care professional with extended training in diabetic education.[2]

As a patient, you may work with your diabetes educator in different settings. Educators provide services in doctor’s offices, hospitals, community centers, pharmacies, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, in-home, and in other settings. Diabetes education can take place in group settings and one-on-one.

Meeting with Your Diabetes Educator

Your first meeting with your diabetes educator should be a one-on-one meeting. At this appointment, you and the educator will discuss your medical history and he or she will answer any questions you may have.

During your first meeting with your diabetes educator, you will immediately see the important role he or she will play in the management of your condition. You will learn about diet and exercise and diabetes management, the psychological side of diabetes management, insulin management, and the importance of a professional team management approach to your disease.

Here are several core aspects of diabetes education you can expect to focus on in your work with your diabetes educator:

Diet and Exercise: As a diabetic, watching what you eat is important. Blood sugar spikes after eating are common. You have to adjust your eating habits and make good choices to avoid these spikes. Your diabetes educator will help you make a good eating game plan.

Carbohydrates are one of the biggest challenges for diabetics. Diabetes education often focuses on teaching patients the glycemic index. This index assigns a number to foods based on their carb count. [3]While learning the index may seem challenging at first, your diabetes educator can show you how use the index to make meal planning easier and healthier.

Exercise is also important for diabetics. Your diabetes educator will help you design an exercise plan that works for you. He or she will not expect you to ‘go all out’ right away. Instead, the educator will take into account your current lifestyle and encourage you to make small changes daily.

Insulin: Insulin can be a mystery for newly diagnosed and long-term diabetics. Your diabetes educator will help you understand the ins and outs of insulin. If you are a type 1 diabetic, your pancreas does not make the insulin your body needs. You most likely are taking insulin shots to help your body get glucose from the food you eat. Your educator will teach you how to manage your insulin intake, your food, and your lifestyle so that it all comes together. The same is true for type 2 diabetics, who may or may not take insulin, and pre-diabetics who can sometimes avoid the disease by lifestyle changes.

Emotional and Psychological Needs: The diagnosis of diabetes can produce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can cause people to turn to stress relieving behaviors such as eating foods that are not good for them.

Your diabetes educator will help you overcome emotional and psychological roadblocks that stand in the way of your health. You may be in denial, and he or she will help you cope as this can harm your long-term health. You may feel discouraged when you suffer setbacks even when you strictly follow your regimen. Your educator will teach you how to stay positive.

Most importantly, you diabetes educator will help you keep diabetes from ruling your life. Remember, it is an important part of your life, but it does not define you. You can continue to live a complete life after your diagnosis with the help of your diabetes educator.

References

[1]  Role of the Diabetes Educator. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Association of Diabetes Educators: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.diabeteseducator.org%2Fexport%2Fsites%2Faade%2F_resources%2Fpdf%2FDefinition_Diabetes_Educator.pdf&ei=4OtoUNeKMJGY8gSQ4IH4BA&usg=AFQjCNEeJq8aDINaRFYMA7iY1PM5FxoHOA&sig2=5w6RjrFZ0_nIpwWY14qTdQ

[2] Ibid

[3]  Glycemic index and glycemic load of carbohydrates in the diabetes diet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Current Diabetes Reports: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21222056

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.