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Seek First to Understand: 3 Ways to Better Serve People with Diabetes

Sep 14, 2020

By Chris Memering, MSN, RN, CDCES, FADCES 

Working in diabetes care and education has taught me a lot about connecting with people. I, myself, do not have diabetes, though I was diagnosed with prediabetes in the last couple of years. I have been overweight since I was a kid but had not lived with diabetes in myself or in my home. As such, one thing I did in becoming a diabetes care and education specialist was to reach out to the people I worked with, people I have met living with diabetes, and families living with diabetes. In my opinion, this has made me a better professional and more able to help the people I am charged with caring for. This seeking to understand has helped me to connect. 

2020 has brought us a global pandemic. It has brought us school at home. It has brought us into the world of telehealth faster than my teenager can roll her eyes at my silly jokes. And it has brought to the forefront how racial and structural inequities make such an enormous impact on the health of our fellow peoples, especially those with diabetes. I know many of us see it every day in the work that we do as diabetes care and education specialists. Some of us may have the lived experience. Many of us, do not. Nathan Painter helped us to understand bias in a previous post, which in turn can help us to understand and acknowledge privilege. But how do we understand the lived experience or the structural inequities that have been put into place for so many years? 

We ask, learn, research and seek to understand. Friday morning’s general session from ADCES20 may be the best place to start. And if you have not registered at the member price of $99, this one talk is worth that price (in my opinion), along with the session that followed on the day. Dr. Uché Blackstock spoke on mobilizing for health equity. She challenged us to look at the structural constructs, understand structural competency instead of cultural competency and how we can create intervention at various levels to help reduce or eliminate health inequities. How do we do this?  

  1. Seek to understand. We understand how to learn about an individual through person-centered care, to truly understand where someone is coming from with open-ended questions and active listening (all the awesome clinical skills we have). But then what? Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. This is when we must seek, read, research and listen. One great resource worth checking out; DiaTribe recently held its Musings Under the Moon program on health equity and diabetes.  

  2. Find new ways to connect. Look for people who have a different lived experience than you in your social media, alumni associations, TED talks, advocacy programs such as white coats for black livespodcastsTed Talks and online book clubs.  

  3. Get uncomfortable. Most of all, don’t be afraid to have the conversations that feel difficult or uncomfortable. We are so good at being allies for the people with diabetes. To be even stronger at being those allies, we need to understand, and it is our job to make sure we have that understanding. 



About the Author

Chris Memering, MSN, RN, CDCES, FADCES, is a nurse and certified diabetes care and educations specialist. She has served in various positions for ADCES, was named as a fellow of ADCES, and elected to the board of directors to serve for the term of 2019-2021. She is also a member of the Diabetes Advisory Council for the state of North Carolina, and sits on several advisory boards, including her local pharmacy’s diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) ADCES program and her local YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Her practice is in care of the hospitalized individual with diabetes, but interests also include technology use in diabetes and online peer support. 


ADCES Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

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HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.

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