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The Diabetes Educator: Helping You Live Well With Diabetes

The management of a chronic and incurable disease like diabetes requires knowledge on the part of those with the disease and the ability to put that knowledge into practice. A well-educated health professional can help the person with diabetes acquire the knowledge and skills he needs in order to cope with his disease. However, this transfer of knowledge is often not possible in the setting of a quick and harried doctor’s consultation. Hence, the evolution of the diabetes educational clinic. Complementing clinical diabetes care, these educational clinics are manned by competent and dedicated diabetes educators.

What is a Diabetes Educator?
Diabetes Educators are an integral part of the diabetes management team. According to the International Diabetes Federation Consultative Section on Diabetes Education, the role of the diabetes educator is to enable people with diabetes to manage their diabetes-related health to the best of their abilities, to allow them to make choices and take actions based on informed judgment, and to enhance the quality of life of the person with diabetes.

The American Association of Diabetes Educators defines diabetes educators as health care professionals who have achieved a core body of knowledge and skills in the biological and social sciences, communication, counseling, and education, and who have experience in the care of people with diabetes. Professionals from a variety of disciplines, including physicians, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists and exercise physiologists, can assume the role of the diabetes educator.

How does one become a diabetes educator?
In 1993, Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua established the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation. Among its major thrusts was the establishment of diabetes educational teams (satellite clinics) nationwide. These teams, made up of a core of physician, nurse and dietician, were envisioned to provide quality diabetes education to patients and their families in their respective areas of practice.

To standardize and uplift the education and competency of these diabetes educators, the Center conducts regular Intensive Training Courses on Diabetes Education, using a curriculum that has been reviewed and accredited by the International Diabetes Federation. The diabetes educators are trained to offer patients either specific diabetes education or romorphpnsive diabetes self management education. Among the modules discussed are: nature of diabetes, diabetes complications and their prevention, medical nutrition therapy and use of a food exchange list, insulin administration, blood glucose monitoring, use of oral and parenteral diabetes drugs, sick day guide, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and diabetes in special settings/ populations.

The Center regularly accepts nominations from Medical Directors of various government and private hospitals nationwide, for a team to come to Manila and train under the Center. This one-week intensive training course is free of charge, and the Center can even provide housing and transportation when requested. However, the Center accepts only diabetes educational teams (made up of a physician, nurse and dietician) for training, and not individuals. This is predicated on the belief that diabetes education is so complex and labor-intensive that it requires a multi-disciplinary approach, best delivered by a dedicated team.

Upon completion of his training, the trainee is conferred the title of Assistant Diabetes Educator. Once he has shown proof that he has counseled at least 500 people with diabetes (usually over a two-year period), he is conferred the title of Associate Diabetes Educator.

How does one become certified as a diabetes educator?
The diabetes educator’s relationship with the patient is often an ongoing one, with the educator providing care, education and evaluation throughout the patient’s life. As such, it is the educator’s responsibility to ensure that he is educationally prepared to practice his role. He needs to constantly review and update his knowledge, and continually strive to maintain and improve his professional competence.

To this end, The Philippine College of Diabetes Educators was established in 2001. The first such organization in Asia, this body serves to accredit diabetes educators.

For accreditation, a diabetes educator should have completed a PCDE accredited course in diabetes education, have completed a specified period of practice in diabetes self-management education, fulfilled the continuing education requirements of the College, and passed a written and oral examination. Thereafter, he is conferred the title of Certified Diabetes Educator.

Because of the volume of diabetes information available, and the advances in diabetes research and technology, diabetes education often is confusing and overwhelming for the person with diabetes. A dedicated, well-trained and competent diabetes educator can help the patient with diabetes effectively manage his disease and live a well-informed, healthier, fuller life.

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