As a nurse, Maggie was familiar with health education since she often had to relay it to her patients. She considered herself to be healthy, and though she wished to make some changes to her weight, the thought of being at risk for type 2 diabetes never crossed her mind. In 2012, a counselor at a weight loss clinic suggested she take a test for insulin resistance. She received a surprising diagnosis of type 2 diabetes with her results. Though Maggie was immediately placed on metformin to lower her blood sugar, it took her a year to come to terms with her diagnosis. For her, acceptance meant stepping into a more proactive role in managing her diabetes.
Maggie’s primary care provider (PCP) helped her achieve lower blood sugar through medications, but she wanted assistance with goal setting and problem solving that her PCPs weren’t able to offer. She says, “The doctors don’t always have the answers, or the time to listen to the whole problem.” Fortunately, in 2016 Maggie learned of an employee benefit in which she could access services through the phone and online. This was how she came to work with Diabetes Coach Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LD, CDE.
Working with a diabetes educator allowed Maggie to tackle goals around nutrition, fitness and diabetes self-management that fit her lifestyle. Maggie’s relationship with Toby created a sense of accountability and a framework in which Maggie could develop her own SMART goals and solutions. Having a diabetes educator meant Maggie always had a second set of eyes on her progression, ensuring that support was always available. Toby used motivational interviewing with Maggie to empower her to have certain discussions with her PCP and provided detailed reports and interpretations of meter readings. She also offered sound advice and information on behaviors and lifestyle.
The way Maggie sees it “Toby provided about 50% of the guidance. She helped me understand what a balanced diet is — and at a time when I was hearing a lot of trendy buzz words related to dieting, she helped me cut through the noise to guide me on a sustainable whole foods path.”
Maggie still plays a very active role in her diabetes management. She is the kind of person that does her own research and stays on task, but a diabetes educator helps her come up with new solutions to keep the momentum moving forward.
When Maggie was trying out a new morning workout routine, she was often interrupted by a plummeting blood sugar that would send her running for snacks. Toby helped her tweak breakfasts, so her blood sugars were manageable enough to power through workouts. Maggie sees great value in the tailored goals, support, and solutions she receives from her diabetes educator.
By working with her diabetes educator, Maggie has been able to better manage her type 2 diabetes—in fact, she is no longer using medications to manage her blood sugar. Maggie saw so much value in the tailored goals, support and solutions she received from her diabetes educator, that when she retired from nursing and lost access to her employee benefit, she continued to pay for the services out of her own pocket.
To anyone considering working with a diabetes educator, Maggie says “Just do it, the input is so valuable. They can’t manage your diabetes for you, but they can definitely help you.”
For more information on how a diabetes educator can help you, check out the Living with Diabetes section of our website.
If you have a diabetes education success story, we'd love to hear it. Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.