Role of Diabetes Educators in Patient Care and Diabetes Self-management
Partnering with physicians to help improve patient health

Diabetes Educators Help Optimize Patient Care

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately 8.3% of children and adults in the United States have diabetes. That’s nearly 26 million people from various races, ethnic, and economic groups. Furthermore, the ADA estimates that about 79 million people have prediabetes.1 Along with the growing number of people with any type of diabetes are the increased challenges many physicians face every day to provide optimal care.

Barriers to Optimal Care and Recommendation

In a white paper authored by members of the Diabetes Working Group, the barriers to optimal care were discussed. They reported that while physicians know the importance of standards-based care, most patients with diabetes do not receive such care. Patient adherence to treatment and time spent with patients were two cited barriers to optimal care.2

The Group’s paper listed several recommendations, which included creating “strong provider teams and share roles and expectations with patients.” Here, diabetes educators were included as part of a strong core team necessary to help patients with diabetes to learn self-management skills.2


group of doctorsA Certified Diabetes Educator is a health professional with comprehensive knowledge of and experience in diabetes management, prevention, and the like. (Photo:123rf)

What's the Training for Certified Diabetes Educators?

Many diabetes educators are a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and/or Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management (BC-ADM). Diabetes educators have mastered the knowledge and skills necessary through practice experience, continuing education, individual study, and mentorship. They possess an in-depth knowledge of biological and social sciences, communication, and counseling.

Diabetes educators are found among a variety of health disciplines, including: registered nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, physicians, mental-health professions, podiatrists, optometrists, and exercise physiologists. They can improve clinical outcomes and patient health.

Standards of Diabetes Education
Diabetes education is achieved through programs recognized and accredieted by the American Diabetes Association and American Association of Diabetes Educators. Both organizations dictate the quality and continuity of diabetes education. Furthermore, the National Standards for Diabetes Education and Support are defining the guidelines for accreditation programs.

Key topics that a diabetes education program covers include:3, 4, 5

  • The diabetes disease and treatment processes
  • Blood glucose: monitoring, and results interpretation and use
  • Lifestyle changes: nutritional management, physical activity
  • Safe use of medications
  • Prevention, detection, and treatment of acute and chronic complications
  • Strategies to address psychosocial and behavioral issues

What Role MIght a CDE Play as Part of a Diabetes Management Team?

Diabetes educators work in an interactive and collaborative manner to help patients with diabetes and related comorbidities (eg, hypertension, depression). They assess patients’ needs, identify specific self-management goals, and evaluate and monitor progress. This includes:

  • Facilitate behavior change by counseling patients and their families on how to make lifestyle decisions
  • Teach individuals how to incorporate healthier choices into their personal self-management programs
  • Promote vital behaviors that can lead to successful self-management

Service Settings
Diabetes educators make their services available to people with diabetes in many different environments. They provide care in outpatient facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices, pharmacies, managed care organizations, home healthcare agencies, and local community settings.

Total Care from Combined Services
Some services, such as nutritional and/or medication counseling, and psychological support may be provided in collaboration with a registered (and state licensed dietitian), pharmacist, psychologist or social worker. Referral to services such as  psychiatrist, mental health clinical nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner provided these professionals have specialized training in diabetes management, may be worth considering as additional support to the patient management team.

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Diabetes Self-management Education Standards
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