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Diabetes Educators and So Much More

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by Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, MS, CDE, FAADE | Apr 18, 2017

When you are asked about your professional title and say “diabetes educator,” do you ever think that it doesn’t encompass so much of what you do? I do! I am so proud of this title but I believe we do a great deal more. 

Let’s take the “diabetes” part of the title. There are so many diseases and disorders that are associated with diabetes, cause diabetes, and are a result of diabetes. When we work with a person with diabetes (PWD), we often deal with the issues related to diabetes as well as many other chronic conditions. We need to be knowledgeable in the pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of diseases of so many other body systems. Think about the effects on blood glucose, insulin resistance/sensitivity and weight from such things as medications, the challenges of pain and mobility disability, psychological disorders and the presence of cardiovascular or neurological diseases to name a few. While the focus might be on diabetes, we must include the whole body and mind for successful care.


While the focus might be on diabetes, we must include the whole body and mind for successful care.


Now, the title of “educator.” Yes, we do educate when we are working with a PWD, but we are also involved in management and support for the person and those close to them. This might include case management, psychological and emotional support, assistance with socioeconomic challenges and much more. Perhaps case manager, care coordinator, specialist or expert better capture what we might do beyond education. I don’t have the answer. Have you thought about this?

Another consideration is that we all have primary professions that may direct or guide what we do in practice. The AADE7 drives the multiple facets of diabetes management. For each of us, there is more of a concentration or emphasis on healthy eating, being active, monitoring, taking medications, problems solving, reducing risk and/or healthy coping based on our primary profession, educational background, and experiences.

AADE’s vision addresses some of these issues: “Optimal health and quality of life for persons with, affected by or at risk for diabetes and chronic conditions.” So we are really diabetes and chronic condition educators, managers and supporters who work with people to optimize health and quality of life! I guess for now, we can continue to say we are diabetes educators, but what title do you think conveys what we do?


Karen KemmisAbout the Author

Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.
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