Ever wonder how the D-educators get educated themselves? We often do. Now we've learned that there's a new non-profit organization on the block aimed specifically at serving those diabetes educators who already have the "certified" tag behind their names.
It's called the Academy of Certified Diabetes Educators (ACDE), and as the name suggests, it's all about training and connecting CDEs working "in the trenches" with PWDs. Under development since early 2012, the new non-profit officially launched last year but has just kicked off its activities this January.
Why break away from the existing national American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) to create a whole new organization?
According to longtime CDE Christine Day in northern Minnesota, who's serving as the initial ACDE governing board president, a growing number of practicing CDEs feel there are too many barriers in the way of getting the education and professional connections necessary to support their profession.
AADE itself appears to be blindsided and somewhat disgruntled about this. "Obviously we feel like we're serving the needs of our members pretty well, whether they're in a CDE or other role -- working in a research facility or community clinic. We don't necessarily see the need for a second organization," AADE director of communications Diana Pihos told us in a phone call yesterday.
AADE executive leadership confirmed that they've had "no contact, no prior notification, and no involvement" with the new group.
Digging deeper, we learned that the real concern that led to ACDE's formation is in protest against the direction of the AADE in state licensing of educators -- allowing people to be recognized as diabetes educators without going through the formal National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE) process.
"The concern is about having something other than certification, that someone could be licensed in a state and be recognized as an 'expert' without an exam. That's something we philosophically don't agree with. The only true way to recognize those in diabetes education is through certification," says Dr. Arny Bereson in California, the academy's first chief executive officer who's held leadership positions at other non-profits including on the board of ADA.
Along with Day and Bereson, other founding members include some very seasoned folks in diabetes education: Joni Beck in Oklahoma, Karen Bolderman in Baltimore, Fran Cogen in Washington D.C., and Kellie Rodriquez in Miami. The ACDE operates as a "virtual" organization but has a mailing address in the Chicago area, where the group can meet in a geographically-central spot.
The NCBDE certification process has long been criticized as a barrier to bringing new blood into this profession. (See Amy's 2007 expose on the topic). To become certified, one must be a licensed healthcare professional and then rack up 2,000 hours of experience over two years working directly with diabetes patients (without yet having certification to do so) to be eligible to sit for an extensive exam. Without the hours of work experience, hopefuls are not eligible for the exam, which is clearly a hurdle to many. Also, as Pihos notes, some educators may work in facilities where research is the priority, rather than hands-on patient care, and some folks in rural areas may not have access to a center where the NCBDE exam is given.
So AADE has been working in recent years to be more inclusive of educators who do not have certification, and to afford them a tiered-level status of state licensed educator (FAQ here). Note that a little over 60% of AADE members are CDEs, but you don't have to be a CDE to be a member.
The new ACDE rejects this approach. "We want to make sure that CDEs are the kind of gold standard for diabetes education," Day tells us.
Bereson adds: "We talked to a lot of CDEs who ... would like someone out there to be advocating for the CDE credential on their behalf, and they're concerned about that not being represented. We're not out to disparage or in any way hurt any other organization in diabetes, but we just felt there were some needs being unmet and we could focus on them."
As to any discussion about whether the certification process might need to be revised or even relaxed to allow more into the profession, Bereson said that wasn't an issue he wanted the group to get involved with.
It's true that many of us in the patient community have been critical of the AADE in the past, when it comes to recognizing the need for more patient focus and changing with evolving D-Education. Both Bereson and Day insist that their new group, by providing more affordable resources for CDEs and working to increase access to these educators, "is the best way to help PWDs." Naturally that remains to be seen.
Beyond certification, CDEs need to keep earn continuing medical education (CME) credits throughout their careers. Limited access to these programs is the other beef that ACDE aims to address.
During her time as an auditor for ADA programs in the past, Day says she'd noticed that many small D-education programs have been cutting back on their continuing education. One CDE in rural Texas who worked by herself told Day that she actually enjoyed the audit process of her small practice simply because she got to be around another CDE, ask questions and learn from others -- access sorely lacking in the past.
With nearly 18,000 CDEs in the U.S., the new academy has tapped a little more than 1,000 members since starting its new marketing effort at the beginning of the year. There's likely going to be an increasingly steep decline in CDEs over the coming decade, especially as more and more of those professionals opt for higher-paying corporate jobs over clinical practice.
One way to counteract that CDE drain is to focus more on the aspiring educators and students, Day says. That's something the existing organizations haven't been doing effectively, and the shortage of CDEs will become critical if more work isn't done to usher a new generation into the profession. That includes helping aspiring CDEs prepare for certification.
While NCBDE governs eligibility and practice requirements for CDEs, the board isn't able to advocate or work directly with other organizations -- and that's a shortcoming that the new academy is already focusing on, Day tells us.
She says that in the past several months, members of the new academy have gone to Capitol Hill to speak with Congressional members about the need for more comprehensive diabetes education resources. And the academy plans to make its website a "one-stop shop" for CDEs to get low-cost (or even free) access to webinars and resources to help them in their jobs.
Already, the academy has a career center on its site where CDEs or those entering the field can post a resume and look for job opportunities. And to help recruit new members, the ACDE is offering free membership for the first two years.
With six initial board members, Day says they're planning to recruit more later this year and they'd like to include student and patient voices in that group (which we applaud). At some point later this year, they'll hold their first official elections for an elected governing board.
It should be interesting to see what this new academy is able to do for the changing state of diabetes education.
Whatever the focus, hopefully one thing is clear to anyone working in this field, whether you're "certified" or part of this or that organization: the key is to do less talking, and more listening to the real-world concerns of patients.
In the end, you can have all the certification and titles in the world, but if you're not effectively connecting with us PWDs, then all is lost.