Endocrinologist Jason Baker, MD, knows firsthand the value diabetes educators can bring to patients.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in college, Baker remembers having a lot of fear, and feeling that he was being treated in a clinical way, rather than with empathy. "After I left the first meeting with the diabetes educator, it was the first time that I had the sense 'This is all going to be OK,'" he said. "It's a powerful memory."
Today Baker practices in a large academic center in New York City, and also works with a nonprofit that provides education on type 1 diabetes to people in developing countries. In both settings diabetes educators are an important part of his care team. "Diabetes educators and I are complementary to one another. The education needs to be reinforced, rather than forced," Baker said.
Rather than having one or two diabetes educators on staff, he likes referring to several so that he can find the right personality matches between patients and educators. This cadre of diabetes educators keeps Baker up to date on patient progress through a shared Electronic Medical Record system, or through notes in the mail or phone calls. Like many prescribers, Baker's day is packed with appointments, so long sessions that require lots of education put him behind schedule. Working with diabetes educators helps relieve some of that burden from him, and off the practice's other staff by being able to help patients with questions or concerns. He also finds that patients who work with a diabetes educator have better clinical outcomes.
Patient feedback encourages Baker to keep referring. "I was talking with a patient who was telling me how much she'd learned from her diabetes educator and I thought, 'Where did I go wrong with this patient?' In truth, I'd shared the same information with her. She was just ready to listen by the time she saw a diabetes educator and have the information delivered in a different way."