By Nora Saul
M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.
Manager of Nutritional Education at Joslin Diabetes Center
If you have diabetes, and whether you see an endocrinologist or primary care physician, you need much more than medical management of your disease.
Diabetes is there 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. It is one of a handful of diseases for which self-care is the primary treatment.
Diabetes requires so much patient involvement that the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) lists seven self care behaviors you need to master the disease.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to master all of this alone. A certified diabetes educator can make your life with diabetes a little easier.
Who’s A Certified Diabetes Educator
- They come from many fields including, registered nurses, registered dietitians, pharmacists, physicians, mental health professionals, podiatrists, optometrists, and exercise physiologists.
- They all have at least two years of experience in their field.
- They must meet a minimum of 1000 hours providing self-care training to people with diabetes
- After meeting the above criteria, they must sit for a national exam.
- They must renew their certification every five years either by sitting for an exam or through a minimum of 75 continuing education credits.
What Can They Do For You
Diabetes Educators provide you with the information and skill training you need to care for yourself when you have diabetes.
Their primary mission is to help you set goals for your care, identify barriers (things that prevent you from carrying out helpful behaviors) and facilitate problem-solving and coping skills that will allow you to make decisions to improve your health.
For example, in the area of problem solving, one of the AADE’s self-care behaviors, a diabetes educator can assist you to look at patterns in your blood glucose results. This allows you to understand whether a change is needed in your food intake, your activity level or the amount of medication you are taking.
Diabetes educators assist patients in gaining knowledge about standards of care, therapeutic goals, and preventive care services to decrease risks. For example, a diabetes educator can help you understand how diabetes affects dental care and how timely and appropriate dental care can improve blood glucose readings, A1C results and reduce complications.
And, of course, a certified diabetes educator can help with diet and physical activity, two of the most important and difficult behavior changes people with diabetes face.
Where Can I Find One
- The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), the trade organization for diabetes educators, has a search function that allows you to find educators by zip code www.diabeteseducator.org/DiabetesEducation/Find.html
- Ask your health care provider for a reference.
- If you would like to learn more about diabetes education at the Joslin Diabetes Center, click here.