Diabetes Education is Key to Successful Diabetes Management

By Amanda Wain, Registered Nurse Reviewer

National Diabetes Awareness Month is observed every November. The National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) 2015 theme, Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. Whats Yours?, highlights the need for ongoing diabetes education and support among people with diabetes and those who care for them, by drawing attention to diabetes and its effects on millions of Americans.

This year, New Editions’ nurses got a head start on diabetes education. On October 2, 2015, the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) held their Virginia State Conference in Richmond and our nurses attended the conference to expand their knowledge of concepts in care involving diabetic patients.

Currently, these nurses work on a New Editions Department of Transportation (DOT) contract that gives diabetic commercial truck drivers who require insulin medication the opportunity to continue with their driving careers. Insulin has the ability to significantly lower high blood sugars. However, if used inappropriately, the medication can cause blood sugars to dip into dangerous levels, known as severe hypoglycemia, causing symptoms such as shakiness, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness.  Anyone taking insulin must be properly educated on how to manage their illness and medication. The commercial truck drivers requiring insulin who participate in the DOT program, must demonstrate the ability to properly manage their diabetes through examination and documentation by several medical specialists. They also must complete courses in diabetes education.

The conference provided training and new ideas to our staff on how we can continue to help our DOT applicants achieve safe blood sugar levels and optimal health.

An endocrinologist presented on several medication options used to treat diabetes. She noted that some patients do not understand how and when they should be taking their prescriptions, which is vital to the management of blood sugars. This reinforces how important it is to take the time with diabetic patients and family members to educate them about medication use. Effective education requires an understanding of the individual’s needs. For example, if the patient is a visual learner, then educators must provide directions that include pictures or diagrams. It is important to keep in mind that each patient learns differently.

The conference also highlighted the incorporation of apps into diabetes education. There are multiple apps available for diabetics that can be downloaded to any smart phone. These apps can track food intake, create diet plans, and can even be a safety net for users. One app alerts emergency contacts if the user has been inactive on his or her phone for a certain time period. For example, if a diabetic goes out for a jog and passes out from hypoglycemia, the app will alert chosen friends or family members that the user needs help, activating an emergency response system. This is helpful in the management of low blood sugar. Recommending apps to DOT drivers may help them create and maintain healthy lifestyle changes. By using an app such as MyFitness Pal, which has the ability to track food intake down to every carb, calorie, and nutrient, driver’s can modify their diet to their specific needs. 

A registered dietician stressed the growing advantages of diabetes education in the digital age. Online support groups for weight loss and disease management are more popular than ever. These groups can help bring small communities together from faraway places, offering tips, emotional support, and a place for individuals to vent and feel heard. Some of these groups are specific to certain demographics so that topics discussed are even more relevant to the participants. The dietician spoke about a group he created for teens with Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin to lower blood sugar. The diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes for young adults can be extremely challenging to deal with. Going through adolescence can be tough enough without factoring in insulin injections or pumps, diet modifications, and food restrictions. The dietician found that through shared experience, the group helped teens cope with and understand their illness. This is an interesting concept, especially because the DOT applicants are themselves a niche group. Creating a support group for diabetic commercial drivers could be extremely beneficial to this population. Drivers could share tips on staying healthy on the road, which can be difficult given the mostly sedentary lifestyle and plethora of fried foods at each rest stop. With the help of others, many of our drivers might be able to make better choices on and off the road.

The AADE continues to provide new ideas and great ways to reach our diabetic population. By sharing new knowledge, we can create a healthier population. Education is key in creating successful outcomes.

Amanda Wain has a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Lynchburg College. She joined our DOT contract team with direct patient care and government contracting experience. Before joining New Editions, she worked in the Operating Room and Progressive Coronary Care Unit at Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church. This acute care knowledge led to a nurse reviewer position at Aegis Defense Services, a static security company in McLean, VA.