We were excited to see fellow type 1 and blogger Jane Dickinson recently named the top diabetes educator of 2018. This annual distinction, announced at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) annual meeting in early August, followed the American Diabetes Association's honor of their pick for educator of the year, Minnesota-based Jackie Boucher.

These awards carry more than just bragging rights -- they are coveted recognition of incredible contributions to the D-Community. We've known Jane for many years, and back in 2015, she was even one of our Patient Voices Contest winners who attended our Fall Innovation Summit.

Today, we're thrilled to offer this lightening-round of questions with Jane about her own D-story, and the state of diabetes education.


#LanguageMatters and More with Diabetes Educator Jane Dickinson

DM) Hi Jane, you live with type 1... go!

JD) I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old. I was hospitalized for a week, during which time my parents took classes to learn how to manage diabetes at home. It’s a completely different world today. I’ve transitioned through urine glucose monitoring with drops and tablets that fizzed and turned colors (and got very hot!) to strips; then on to blood glucose monitoring with strips and color charts, to early meters that took two minutes, to better and faster meters that required less and less blood; and now I’m on a Dexcom G6. What a world! 

Any negative effects from living with diabetes for so long?

I have lipoatrophy as a result of all the animal insulins I took as a kid (that’s my theory anyway; no one really knows what causes lipatrophy – if someone reading this has the definitive answer, please share!). As a result, I don’t use a pump. I’ve used pumps twice in my life – and loved them!! – but unfortunately, I get pits in my injection sites and eventually there’s nowhere I can put the infusion sets. So I use syringes and vials and they are my friends.

Type 1 diabetes has never stopped me from doing anything. In fact, I’ve had amazing opportunities and experiences because of my connection with diabetes. It’s all good.

How would you describe the state of diabetes education these days?

Good question! Diabetes educators are incredible people who truly care about helping people with diabetes. We are at a point, however, where diabetes educators need to up the ante. We are engaging more and more “patient voices” in our professional meetings, conferences, etc. That is a great thing that is helping us to connect more and figure out how to get and stay relevant. At the same time, there are so incredibly many people who are not being referred to diabetes educators, and so many diabetes educators who are not getting informed about what people with diabetes really need.

What can be done about that disconnect?

We desperately need to reach more people in both directions. We need providers (physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) to value the role of the diabetes educator, refer patients to diabetes educators, talk highly of diabetes education and educators, and spread the word about this valuable resource. Some people living with diabetes feel they know more than their healthcare providers, including diabetes educators. This means that we need to partner up and figure out how we can help in different ways, rather than “force-feeding” information that might be redundant and unnecessary. We need to get current on technology, so we can make recommendations and help people get the equipment, supplies, and guidance they need. Check out AADE’s new DANA resource for all things diabetes technology. {And 'Mine readers -- please fill out the apps use survey by Oct. 8, 2018.}

Most important, diabetes educators can adopt communication styles that are empowering, person-centered, and strengths-based. This helps people feel valued, respected, included, and like a partner in their care. People with diabetes are more likely to talk openly, share what’s going on for them and what they need, if they trust their healthcare providers. Using messages and language that are consistent with this approach can open communication and improve relationships. This makes it more likely that people will come back for follow up as well as feel better about taking care of themselves. 

Peer support has been getting a lot of attention lately... as someone involved in the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) for many years yourself, what would you say about this?

Peer support is critical to self care in diabetes. Diabetes is 24/7; it’s hard, it requires constant thought and attention; and it can be very lonely when people have no support. Diabetes social media has filled a hole for many people. It’s like online diabetes camp. I absolutely recommend diabetes camp for all, by the way. If you think you’ve aged out, just sign up to be a volunteer or staff member! 

Online peer support is a fabulous way for people living with diabetes to give and get support from those who truly 'get it.' It’s also a wonderful way for diabetes professionals to see inside the life of those who have diabetes. Short office visits don’t tell much. Participating (or simply “lurking”) in a twitter chat, reading blogs, or otherwise engaging in the Diabetes Online Community helps professionals identify the current challenges and topics of interest to people with diabetes.

What's the feeling getting this kind of top educator recognition?

I am incredibly honored and grateful for this recognition because it is an opportunity to spread the word about words! I will be giving several talks next year for AADE members around the country. They will get to hear about the language movement and how important the words and messages we use are for people living with diabetes. My hope is that this work will help more professionals adopt empowering, person-centered, and strengths-based language and also spread the word themselves!

What else would you like the diabetes community to know? 

The diabetes community plays an important role in this language movement. As someone living with diabetes, I first learned about the impact of words at diabetes camp three decades ago. Since this is our “virtual” diabetes camp, what better place to spread the #languagematters campaign and really get behind it? In other words, not just talk about it, but change the way we talk. This is the only way healthcare providers and society in general will ever catch on and approach us with more respect and compassion – if they see us speaking and writing about diabetes in a person-centered and strengths-based way. Diabetes is what we have, not what we are. We are strong, resilient, successful, amazing people and we’ve got this.


Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Jane, and congrats again on the AADE recognition. Well deserved, for sure!