By Veronica Brady, PhD, FNP-BC, BC-ADM, CDCES
As a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES), have you ever walked into the room to see a patient and made a snap decision about them before they ever opened their mouths? Have you looked at a referral request and thought to yourself “I know exactly what to do for this person”? Well, I would like to take a moment to caution you about making snap decisions or “jumping to conclusions” before hearing what the person with diabetes has to say. It is not always what you see or think.
As people first and healthcare providers second, we all come to the table with our own set of rules of engagement. Our upbringing, socioeconomic status, marital status, education, etc. play a role in who we are. Without proper training and conscious effort, we may view others through the lens of our own personal experiences and make inaccurate conclusions.
I understand that as DCES’s we all share a goal of doing what is best for people with diabetes. We want to encourage them to eat a healthy diet, take their medications, exercise and make other positive choices for their health and wellness. But what we say to our patients and how we say it requires some careful thought. Not every person who appears “overweight” overeats or refuses to exercise. Those who are normal weight or “thin” may not be that way due to making “good choices”. Each person has a story behind their appearance, and it behooves us to hear it.
So, a word of caution. When you see that patient/client/person with diabetes sitting before you or you read about them on paper/screen, take a moment to assess your initial reaction to what you see. Remove your personal biases and allow the individual to tell you what their situation is and what their needs are. That pause and silent reflection can be the difference between the individual opening up and sharing their needs or nodding their heads in agreement to all they you say and never returning to see you again.
To learn more about how to address potential bias in the diabetes care and education space, explore ADCES’ resources on health inequities.