Diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) is the new designation to replace the title of diabetes educator, a decision made by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). This new title reflects the role of the specialist as an essential member of your diabetes care team.

A DCES does so much more than provide education. They also have expertise in diabetes technology, behavioral health, and cardiometabolic conditions.

In addition to educating and supporting you in your day-to-day life with diabetes, your DCES will work with other members of your healthcare team. They’re focused on integrating your self-management care with your clinical care.

A DCES usually has a professional certification such as a registered nurse, registered dietitian, pharmacist, physician, psychologist, or exercise physiologist. They may also have credentials as a certified diabetes educator.

Managing type 2 diabetes can be challenging and overwhelming at times. Your doctor may not have adequate time to spend with you and provide ongoing education and support. That’s where a DCES comes in.

Your DCES will help you meet your needs by providing education, tools, and support to manage your life with diabetes. Their role is to really listen to your questions and concerns. They know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to diabetes management.

You can ask your doctor or healthcare professional to refer you to a DCES who is a certified diabetes educator. The National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators also has a database that you can search through to find a DCES near you.

Your doctor may refer you to a Diabetes Self-Management Education Support (DSMES) program. These programs are typically led by a DCES or a member of your healthcare team.

You’ll receive information, tools, and education around a variety of topics, including:

  • healthy eating
  • ways to be active
  • coping skills
  • medication
  • decision-making

Many studies shows these programs help lower hemoglobin A1C and improve other clinical and quality of life outcomes. These educational programs are typically offered in a group setting and offer encouragement and emotional support to all who take part.

Diabetes education is available through accredited DSMES programs. These are covered by Medicare as well as many other insurance plans.

These programs have been developed to help people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes set, achieve, and maintain health goals. They’re taught by a DCES and other members of your healthcare team. They address a variety of topics including healthy eating, being active, weight management, and blood glucose monitoring.

DSMES programs must meet standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They’re also accredited by either the AADE or the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Your DCES serves as a resource for you, your loved ones, and your healthcare team. They’ll do this while using a nonjudgmental approach and supportive language.

A DCES can help you learn ways to reduce health risks by providing specific strategies to meet your needs.

This includes self-care behaviors such as:

  • healthy eating
  • being active
  • monitoring blood glucose levels
  • taking your medications as prescribed
  • problem solving
  • reducing risks
  • healthy coping skills

You and your DCES can work together to develop a physical activity plan that fits your needs and goals. Plus, you’ll work together to make sure it’s both safe and enjoyable. Exercise can improve your heart health, blood glucose, and even your mood.

The ADA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This breaks down to about 20 to 30 minutes during most days of the week. The ADA also recommends two or three sessions of strengthening exercises every week.

Work with your DCES before starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than your typical activities. You should also talk to them if you have other health concerns.

To exercise safely, be sure to drink plenty of water, wear proper footwear, and check your feet daily. Work with your DCES if you’ve had problems with low blood glucose during or after physical activity. You may need to adjust your medications or tweak your diet to help prevent or treat low blood sugar.

A DCES will provide you with self-management education tools and work closely with your physician and healthcare team. This integration of self-management and clinical care is essential to improve your health outcomes.

Your DCES can also help you take steps toward goals like weight management and smoking cessation and provide support around behavioral health. These positive changes may ultimately reduce your risk of complications like heart disease.

Susan Weiner is the owner and clinical director of Susan Weiner Nutrition, PLLC. Susan was named the 2015 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year and is an AADE fellow. She is the recipient of the 2018 Media Excellence Award from the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Susan is a well-respected national and international lecturer on a variety of topics related to nutrition, diabetes, wellness, and health, and has authored dozens of articles in peer reviewed journals. Susan earned her master’s degree in applied physiology and nutrition from Columbia University.