I personally wasn't able to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators this summer. But I've been there a few times. It's quite the experience for a patient to witness thousands of experts in life-with-diabetes running around between lectures, demos, and expo booths. What are they all buzzing about? Today, a wrap-up from Kelly Rawlings, a type 1 diabetic who happens to be editor of Meredith Publishing's Diabetic Living magazine.
A Guest Post by Kelly Rawlings of Diabetic Living magazine
I've attended three AADE annual meetings. Each time, I have been impressed with the dedication these health care professionals (mainly registered dietitians, nurses, and pharmacists—a few doctors and even an occasional LMSW!) show toward helping their clients—people with diabetes or people at risk for diabetes — treat and live with various forms of the condition.
In the breakout sessions these professionals avidly listen to the presenters, ask specific questions, and frantically take notes about resources for themselves and their clients. They're hungry for the latest research and treatment options, strategies for behavior change, improved techniques for communication, etc. They also appear to be overworked and underfunded, constricted by too-short patient minutes, and barely keeping their heads above the rising tide of people living with diabetes. AADE expected about 8,000 attendees. Each one of those CDEs would need to see 2,250 different patients annually in order to provide coverage to every person diagnosed with diabetes (and that's not counting the 6 million or so unaware they have diabetes) in the United States.
I don't know about you, but I'm often confused about my diabetes. There are so many variables and my life as an ongoing scientific study of one is ... messy. Little wonder it's a tough job for a diabetes educator to help me — or you — untangle the realities of life (often with minimal or no logging — and hey, an educated guess is still just a guess) and adjust treatment to help diabetes fit into our lives instead of molding our lives to fit around diabetes.
So, thank you. To the nurse from a cardio rehab facility whose clients have LOTS of questions about what to eat with diabetes. It's not his job to provide that info, but he attended a nutrition class in order to better understand the topic. To the licensed master of social work who was shocked that so few educators have experience or training in mental health (I vote for more mental health counselors and therapists to get their CDE certification!). To the tired and footsore attendees (it was a big exhibit hall!) at an Accu-Chek presentation about using paired blood glucose testing to show people with diabetes how their food choices or exercise choices or medications directly affect blood sugars.
I appreciated that the emphasis was on showing, not telling. Listening, not talking. Sharing, not withholding. As one spokesperson from a major pharmaceutical company stated, there are at least 131,000 minutes between office visits (if you see an educator quarterly). Now, if only AADE would show interest in training and certifying a helpful army of volunteers — peer counselors who could assist the professionals and provide support, encouragement, and resources during some of those minutes.
You can find Kelly on twitter @KellyRawlings