Certified diabetes educators promote quality diabetes care

Dawn Holloway

Dawn Holloway

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the top public health threats facing our nation. It is a very serious, costly disease that can be controlled and at times prevented. When patients are diagnosed with diabetes, they are suddenly faced with many questions such as: What foods do I eat? How often do I check my blood sugar levels? What is a normal blood sugar reading? What do I do if my blood sugar is high or low?

Diabetes is a complex disease that is primarily self-managed. This is why it is important for patients to have diabetes education. According to Dr. Christopher Saudek, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, “no diabetes management tool - no new oral agent, insulin or medical device - is as important as the services of a certified diabetes educator.”

A certified diabetes educator (CDE) is a licensed health care professional that specializes in helping people with diabetes learn the self-management skills to maintain optimal blood sugar levels and live a healthy life. Certified diabetes educators work with patients to provide achievable individualized treatment plans. We teach our patients that diabetes is a disease that can be controlled through healthy eating, exercise, taking medication as prescribed by a physician and stress management. We also emphasize that patients need to be proactive in their care. We teach our patients how diabetes affects their body and life, individualized meal planning, how to monitor blood glucose levels and how to recognize and prevent acute and long-term complications.

To earn CDE status, a licensed health care professional must have 1,000 hours of diabetes management teaching experience and pass a rigorous exam, provided by the National Certification Board of Diabetes Educators, that covers all areas of diabetes. To maintain certification, the CDE is required to complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years, and provide at least four hours of diabetes education weekly. This allows the educators to provide their patients with the most current diabetes information. A CDE credential demonstrates a specialized knowledge that promotes quality of care for people with diabetes. Currently there are only 15,000 diabetes educators who hold the CDE credential.

Blount Memorial Hospital’s Diabetes Management Center consists of a staff of five certified diabetes educators. Two of those educators are registered nurses and three are registered dietitians. The center is recognized by the American Diabetes Association as meeting the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education Programs. Diabetes patients who participate in ADA diabetes management programs are taught self-care skills that enable better management of a diabetes treatment regimen, the disease process, detecting and treating acute and chronic complications, and psychological adjustment.

The program also offers information for diabetic women who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant, including preconception care, management during pregnancy and gestational diabetes. Through the support of the diabetes management team, patients assume a major role in their diabetes management. Acute and long-term complications as well as unnecessary hospital admission may be prevented through diabetes education.

The Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center requires a physician referral. Upon referral we offer a two-hour individual appointment where the patient spends one hour with a nurse and one hour with a dietitian. Following this appointment, patients can attend an eight -hour group class, four-hour refresher class or a follow-up appointment. Our four-hour refresher class is designed for individuals with diabetes who have had previous diabetes education but need assistance controlling blood sugar levels at this time.

Dawn Hollaway is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and program coordinator for the Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center.

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