Maryanne Strobel, RN, MSN, CDE and her daughter Alaina Strobel, RDN, LD, CDE are both diabetes educators and draw inspiration from each other in their practice. Learn why they both became diabetes educators, why they think it's rewarding, and their advice for new or aspiring educators.
Why did you choose to become diabetes educators?
Maryanne: Prior to becoming a mother, I was an RN specializing in critical care. When Alaina was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus and received her first insulin pump, we attended diabetes classes together. After moving to Texas, my hospital employer capitalized on my “diabetes background” and offered me a position as an RN Program Coordinator (instead of the gerontology position I applied for). At that time Alaina was as teenager and volunteered to help with the hospital’s diabetes support groups.
Alaina: While learning to manage my type 1 diabetes mellitus, I realized how food plays a major role in blood glucose control, inspiring me to follow my mom’s footsteps and become a diabetes educator. My mom encouraged me to attend diabetes camp as a teenager; eventually I chose to volunteer on the camp’s medical staff under the direction of my former pediatric endocrinologist, who also has type 1 diabetes. I watched my mother prepare for the CDE® exam, volunteered with her at diabetes support groups and events, and tagged along to AADE local and national meetings. For mom, the door to a career as a diabetes educator opened with my diagnosis, and I became diabetes educator because she encouraged me to embrace it.
Do you work alongside each other in any capacity?
Maryanne: Yes! We work closely as AADE volunteers on the Texas CB Leadership Team (Maryanne – Membership; Alaina – Technology) and participate in the Southeast Texas AADE LNG. We are passionate about diabetes and disaster readiness, response, and recovery; we look forward to presenting on this topic, along with colleague Christine Fisher, at AADE18. The three of us were part of the Diabetes Emergency Relief Coalition responding to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Recently we held a post-disaster Houston Diabetes Professionals Networking Event, attended by local health diabetes professionals, pharmaceutical reps and diabetes-related suppliers, and representatives from JDRF, the ADA, and Cities Changing Diabetes to brainstorm ideas; the event was hosted by our LNG to showcase AADE as linchpin in the diabetes community.
As a mother/daughter RN-CDE and RD-CDE team and a family living with diabetes (my mother has type 2 diabetes), we often talk about a writing a book and or starting a unique business. We will see what the future holds!
If you are open to learning, you can learn from anyone, whether the person has many degrees or none at all. Truly listen to what a person says without simultaneously forming a response; active listening is your best tool.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Maryanne: Seeing the joy and thankfulness on the faces of patients who have been desperate for someone to understand and listen to them. So often I hear patients say they feel healthcare providers, family members, and the general public blame people with diabetes for getting the disease or having it get out of control.
Alaina: It’s the moment when someone “gets it”–they realize that diabetes is something that they can manage, and live well with.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing diabetes educators today?
Maryanne: The economy and rising cost of insulin and diabetes supplies, co-pays and deductibles.
Alaina: Navigating all the changes within healthcare and the economy and the impact that it has on patients’ appointment length as well as access to supplies and insulin.
How has being an AADE member helped you treat patients?
Maryanne: AADE provides me with easy access to the necessary evidence-based tools so that I can provide my patients with the best care. In addition, MY AADE NETWORK is invaluable – I am able to collaborate with so many exemplary diabetes professionals, and reach out quickly for information and support via the Communities of Interest (COIs).
Alaina: I love that AADE has a wide breadth of resources which keeps me updated on practically everything going on in the diabetes world. My AADE membership gives me access to the COIs, which allows me to collaborate with people from other professions. Additionally, I appreciate the online continuing education opportunities, as well as AADE’s publications and quick guides, which provide easy access to answers I need.
What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?
Maryanne: I enjoy spending time with my family. I really enjoyed the “Escape Room” experience we did last year and the Camel Ride we enjoyed at the zoo! Whenever I can, I enjoy walking on the beach.
Alaina: I enjoy finding new healthy and trendy places to eat with my family and friends. I enjoy listening to music and playing it; I play the harp in my “spare time.” I also love animals and enjoy anything that includes interacting with them such as going to the zoo or parks.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring diabetes educators?
Maryanne: I gave this advice to Alaina when she started her career as a diabetes educator (and occasionally she reminds me when I am having “one of those days”)…Often I reach out to my daughter to tap the wisdom she has acquired as a professional diabetes educator; I learn something new from Alaina all the time, especially regarding insulin pump advice. Thank you Alaina!
- If you are open to learning, you can learn from anyone, whether the person has many degrees or none at all. Truly listen to what a person says without simultaneously forming a response; active listening is your best tool.
- Choose the words you use with a patient very carefully. The language used and information shared is every bit as important as medication, and can make all the difference to a patient attaining successful self-management.
- Don’t take everything personally. Often a patient’s response is a reaction to something totally unrelated. Learn what is important to the patient, find a common ground, and proceed from there. Remember that just because the individual has to contend with diabetes, doesn’t mean that person’s entire world is put on hold; bill-paying, caring for family, and all the complexities of daily life are still at play.
- As important as it is for an educator to gain clinical knowledge for a career, it is equally important to network and stay connected within the diabetes world – and the best networking and clinical diabetes knowledge comes from being a member of AADE!