Today's guest blogger, Chris Memering, BSN, RN, CDE, has been a nurse for 15 years and a diabetes educator for the last nine. Chris is also AADE's Member Affiliates Liason to the Board of Directors.
I love November and National Diabetes Month. I love that I have an excuse to put some blue in my hair and my work won’t balk. I love seeing all the diabetes organizations put myths versus facts into full effect to bring out awareness— and I love seeing buildings lit up in blue on November 14. And best of all, it’s National Diabetes Education Week!
So, how did I get here? How did I become passionate about “giving back” to the organization that supports my career, a career that I love, and of which I am proud? Here is a little about my path toward working on the AADE Board.
I first went to school to major in chemistry, figuring I would end up in medical school or as a nurse practitioner. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1998 and worked for the US Patent and Trademark Office for two years. I went back to nursing school at UVA in their second degree program, and graduated in 2002.
I got married, and that brought me to New Bern, NC where I started my nursing career on our oncology unit. I had the great opportunity to be a charge nurse, as well as a preceptor for nursing students and new graduates. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the oncology populations; however, working with terminally ill patients took a toll on me as it does so many. After coming in for a staff meeting while on maternity leave with my first child, seeing a favorite patient of mine, and knowing that was to be the last time I was going to see him, I started looking for a new career path.
A few years later, our inpatient diabetes educator retired. One of my colleagues encouraged me to take a chance and apply for the job. I really enjoyed helping patients get ready for their transition to home, so becoming a patient educator sounded like a perfect fit. I got the job and my journey began.
Understanding the complexity of diabetes and the effect each choice has was amazing.
I was able to attend the East Carolina University Diabetes Bootcamp shortly after being hired. It was such a great experience, with so much to learn. I will be the first to admit, when I graduated nursing school I couldn't figure out why all these patients with type 2 diabetes couldn't get “in control,” take their medicines, and stay out of the hospital. I was less naive when I changed career paths, but I learned so much from the educators who ran the boot camp at the time, Mindy Saenz, RD, LDN, CDE and Susan Houston, RN, CDE. Understanding the complexity of diabetes and the effect each choice has was amazing.
The best part of the experience was learning about CCAADE, the Coastal Carolina chapter of AADE. I was already part of the state chapter for Forensic Nursing (yes, a side passion of mine), and knew how much professional organizations can help enhance practice. I was able to start attending meetings, meeting great educators whom I call on for all sorts of advice and knowledge. Before I knew it, I was volunteering to be secretary and then technology chair. Shortly after that, AADE made the major shift away from chapters to LNGs and CBs.
We struggled for a bit in North Carolina. Some members tried to pull meetings or conference calls together, but we were struggling. I knew we had strong chapters in NC and that we could make a strong Coordinating Body. I also knew that I wanted to lead that CB one day, so I thought to myself, “Why not from the beginning?” And I did. Under the new structure, I became North Carolina’s first Coordinating Body Chair. We decided to make our terms two years, as we felt like you needed a year to figure out what you were doing, and a year to make it all sparkle. We also wanted to make sure others had the chance to lead, and thus we made a term limit of two. I proudly served as chair for my state for those four years. We made strides by helping build LNGs, supporting the AADE Foundation so we could give back to our members, support our local state diabetes camps, and develop continuing education programs.
As I was working at a state level, I also was very active in the Inpatient Community of Interest (COI). Inpatient educators don't always have another educator working alongside them. Most of the time we work solo. However, we have an awesome COI full of people who can answer questions at the drop of an email, or lift you up when you are so frustrated that the same doctor keeps holding all insulin on the person with type 1 who is NPO! I could not be the educator I am without people like Melinda Leighton, Donna Funk, Kellie Antinori-Lent, Jane Seeley, and the late Deb Sage, and so many more.
So when I walked into the COI meeting in Philly at AADE13, and Donna Funk looked at me and said, “Deb is going to be the lead next year, and you can do the year after that.” I, of course, just nodded my head and said, “Okay!” It was my way to give back to the group that had given me so much. I also had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Member Affiliate’s Council during my year as lead as a COI representative.
One of the great things about serving as CB chair is being invited to attend the AADE Annual Leadership Forum. After hearing the AADE Past President, Joan Bardsley, speak about serving on the national board, I knew that was my next step. Even more perfect was the opening of the Member Affiliate’s Liaison position on the Board. This position is a liaison between members and the National Board and also works closely with AADE staff. Sign me up!
Somehow, despite interviewing for the ballot with a 102 degree fever, in the throes of pneumonia, this time I made it.
It was the perfect fit for me and a chance to continue being involved and giving back. I actually think I had applied years before when the position was first created, but didn't make the ballot. Somehow, despite interviewing for the ballot with a 102 degree fever, in the throes of pneumonia, this time I made it. I managed to win the election with the support of our awesome membership. Unfortunately, I ran against my good friend Rachel Head. When we both realized we were on the same ballot, we agreed that whoever won, the position was going to be in great hands no matter what.
It has been my honor to serve as the Member Affiliates Liaison to the Board of Directors over the past two years. I have enjoyed meeting so many of you at the leadership meeting in January (in Chicago!) and more at the Public Policy Forum where we learned so much on how to be effective advocates in the political arena. And then meeting so many more members at the AADE16 (San Diego) and AADE17 (Indianapolis) annual conferences, especially during the CB and COI Networking receptions. We are such a unique intraprofessional group and I sometimes can't believe I get the opportunity to work with all of you.
So, as my favorite Twitter chat of the week always asks, here are my closing thoughts:
To our members: You are AWESOME! The work you do every day for people with or affected by diabetes is amazing. I am proud to have been a nurse for the last 15 years, but I am more proud to have been a diabetes educator alongside you for the last nine.
To the volunteer leaders across our membership: Thank you! Thank you for stepping up to the call to give back to this great organization, from the local to the national levels.
To the members of the Member Affiliate’s Council this year and last year: You have the best ideas! Thank you for adding to your leadership commitment and raising you hand (Pati’s favorite phrase this time of year), being mentors, and such a great sounding board for the work of the Volunteer Engagement Staff.
And finally, to the Board Members and Officers past, present, and future that I have had the pleasure of working with: Creating lasting career partnerships, and lifelong friends, thank you. Thank you for your mentorship, both formally asked and informally received, you know who you are. Thank you for your confidence in those of us who are still early in our careers. And thank you for your leadership to our great organization. We are on the cusp of a new era. You have brought us here and will lead us forward. I can only hope that one day I will be able to return the favor.
Happy Diabetes Education Week! Keep showing the world just how amazing you all are and how many different paths can get you into this fantastic profession.
About the Author:
Chris Memering, BSN, RN, CDE, has been a nurse for 15 years and a diabetes educator for the last nine. She became a Certified Diabetes Educator in June of 2010. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Nursing from the University of Virginia. Chris is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the nursing honor society. She was a 2012 Clinical Excellence Award Winner from CarolinaEast, which is a peer recognition award for excellence in many areas of nursing and clinical expertise. Chris has served as the Chair of the North Carolina Coordinating Body for the American Association of Diabetes Educators, Inpatient Community of Interest Lead, and serves on the North Carolina Diabetes Advisory Council, as well as the advisory board to a local community pharmacy AADE DSMES Program.