You and Your Diabetes Educator

You don’t have to manage diabetes alone. Get the facts about diabetes educators, key members of your care team. 

Susan Amoruso
Reviewed by
Philip Levy, MD
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Let’s face it: Counting carbs, staying active, testing blood sugar and tweaking your meds can feel like a full-time job. So why not get a little help? Whether you have been diagnosed recently or have been living with diabetes for years, adding a diabetes educator to your care team is a smart step toward a healthier you.

What’s a diabetes educator?
Diabetes educators are qualified health professionals, including registered nurses, registered dietitians, and pharmacists, who work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices or on their own to provide diabetes self-management education (DSME) or diabetes self-management training (DSMT).

The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) defines DSME/DSMT as “a collaborative process through which people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to modify behavior and successfully self-manage the disease and its related conditions.”

Diabetes educators can earn two different types of credentials, CDE (certified diabetes educator) or BC-ADM (board certified–advanced diabetes management), and must go through a re-credentialing process every five years to stay up to date on advances in diabetes care.

What does a diabetes educator do?
A diabetes educator helps you set achievable behavioral goals and provides support by encouraging you to talk about your concerns and challenges. “One of my favorite questions to ask is, ‘What is standing in the way of your taking care of diabetes?’” explains Kim DeCoste, RN, MSN, CDE, manager of the Diabetes Center of Excellence of the Madison County Health Department in Kentucky.

Some people have trouble following their doctors’ recommendations, while others with diabetes simply need tools and motivation to stay on track, even after living with the condition for years. “It’s never too late to start seeing a diabetes educator,” says DeCoste. “We can help any patient identify and remove barriers to better blood sugar control.”

Diabetes education focuses on seven self-care behaviors (known as the AADE7™ Self-Care Behaviors):

  • Healthy eating
  • Being active
  • Monitoring
  • Taking medication
  • Problem solving
  • Reducing risks
  • Healthy coping

For example, a diabetes educator may help you understand food labels and make smart meal choices, develop a safe activity plan, better monitor your blood glucose levels and medications, and address emotional and financial barriers to care.

“We’re the people who tell you the good news—that you can do things to prevent or delay complications,” says DeCoste, who conducts diabetes education and prevention classes and oversees diabetes prevention and awareness initiatives. “You can be a healthy person living with diabetes.”

Ask your doctor for a referral to a diabetes educator, and check with your insurance company to find out whether your plan covers this type of treatment. In addition, the AADE offers a Find a Diabetes Educator tool to help you locate a local diabetes educator. 

April 2013