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Which hat did you put on for work today?

Oct 25, 2010

I was recently at the AADE office in Chicago for a Symposium. We had an amazing group of professionals and accomplished more than I could imagine in a few hours. At one point, we were listing people involved in the care of a person with diabetes. Of course, we listed diabetes educators. Then, we started to put the different professionals that might be diabetes educators under that heading; nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, mental health professionals, etc. But then, we stopped. When working with someone with diabetes, we are all diabetes educators.

I must admit, when someone asks me what I do for a living, my first response is that I am a physical therapist. I have been one for 26 years (compared to the 15 years I have been a diabetes educator). But, I am a diabetes educator! It is so special and somewhat unique within each of our professions that we are diabetes educators. It sets us apart. We have additional knowledge in diabetes management that others don’t have. We know the information that can help people with diabetes and various methods of how to help foster success. Does that mean I know everything about medical nutrition therapy or medications for a person with diabetes? No. Of course not. I don’t know everything about physical therapy, either…. But, I do know who to ask or where to look.

So, when you get up in the morning, what hat do you put on (figuratively)? Is it your nursing, pharmacist, physical therapist, etc. hat? Or, is it your diabetes educator hat? Diabetes education is not our first profession. We are all professionals in something else. We need to follow the practice guidelines for our individual professions. We may bill a certain way for our services and have different referral processes. So, it is easy to think of ourselves by our primary profession. We may put that hat on.

Then, we go to our job and start working with a person with diabetes and we need our diabetes educator’s hat. Do we take the other hat off? Probably not. So, I propose a different hat. (See hats below.) When someone asks what I do, I should say that I am a physical therapist and a diabetes educator. And, when we work with someone with diabetes, I should say that I am a diabetes educator. We think like diabetes educators (we have so much to offer!) and help people as diabetes educators. Share your expertise based on your specific profession, but be a diabetes educator.

So, which hat do you put on when you go to work?


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  1. Dec 03, 2010

    Whether you are an RN, RD, PT, PharmD, MD/CDE, because you are also a CDE, you have a unique opportunity to motivate any patient/client to prevent diabetes. With predictions of 2/3 of our population developing t2 diabetes, prevention education should be a priority for all healthcare providers. I look for opportunities to talk about preventing and controlling diabetes in every conversation encounter, including Sunday School prayer time, grocery check out, and my grandchildren's school events. I always wear my multi-facited, Knowledgeable, Diabetes Educator hat. Thanks Karen for your illustration.
  2. Nov 09, 2010

    I am an RN/CDE I usually wear both hats Nurse/Diabetes Educator as they are so intertwined, In terms of the issues that I encounter daily, medication manangement, non-adherance low health literacy, Healthy eating, healthy coping, etc. I have also had to learn quite a bit on Nutrition so I find myself simultaneously going back and forth between, Nurse, CDE, and Nutritionist all in one session. I love it as it forces me to keep up to date on whats going on in the various disciplines.

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