What Is A Diabetes Educator?

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What is a diabetes educator?

This became something our daughter needed to learn a short time after our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June of 2019.

Simply put, a diabetes educator is someone who specializes in teaching patients and their caregivers how to properly care for and manage diabetes.

This education will help you to recognize when it is time to go to the hospital and when you can self-treat various symptoms and/or complications of diabetes.

Our grandson was due to start kindergarten a few months after he was diagnosed.

This required that a diabetes educator teach the school staff how to manage Alex’s diabetes so he could attend school like any other child.

Living with diabetes can be rather complicated until you understand what you need to do and why.

A diabetes educator can certainly help ease that transition into a new normal.

What is a certified diabetes educator (CDE)?

A certified diabetes educator is a medical professional who specializes and has passed a national board examination in order to be qualified.

How do you become a CDE?

In Canada, a person must be registered (certified, licenced) as a health care professional, must be actively practicing in diabetes education and must have a minimum of 800 hours of diabetes education experience to be eligible to sit for the Canadian Diabetes Educator’s Certification Board (CDECB) exam.

In the US, a person must be registered (certified, licensed) as a health care professional, be actively practicing in diabetes education and have a minimum number of hours of practical work experience and pass an NCBDE exam in order to be certified.

A person wishing to gain the certification of diabetes care educator can achieve their practicum hours by working in hospitals, physician offices, clinics, home health, wellness programs and public health.

Maintaining that certification once it is achieved requires continuing education on an ongoing basis and keeping abreast of new developments in diabetes management or retaking the examination.

Where do CDE’s work?

What Is A Diabetes Educator? Where do CDE's work?

A certified diabetes educator may work in a variety of settings such as:

  • hospitals
  • physician offices
  • clinics
  • home health
  • wellness programs
  • public health

Why should I work with a CDE?

There are a few key times when you should see and work with a diabetes educator and they are:

  1. At diagnosis
  2. At annual check-ins or when you are not meeting health goals
  3. when faced with a new challenge
  4. Changes in your healthcare or life stages

A certified diabetes educator can help in a variety of ways such as:

  • calming your nerves while teaching you how to give insulin injections
  • help find the help you may need to better manage the cost of medication and supplies
  • help when you are struggling to manage blood sugar levels and can’t reach the target range
  • help you learn the proper nutrition when you are unsure what to eat after a new diagnosis
  • help when you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and need support during pregnancy offer assistance and education when you are starting to use an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor and need to learn how to begin
  • offer advice if you have been experiencing frequent hypoglycemic events while training for your next athletic event
  • support you if you were recently diagnosed with prediabetes and want to learn how to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes

What will I learn?

A certified diabetes educator will be able to teach and guide you in every aspect of effective diabetes management.

All areas of your life may need adjustments in order to better manage your blood sugar levels.

NutritionWhat Is A Diabetes Educator? - nutrition

Your CDE will offer helpful advice on not only what you should eat but also when and how much.

You will learn what foods are safe to eat when your blood sugars are too high and also learn what to eat if your blood sugar is too low.

You will learn what are the best types of snacks and even drinks.

They will teach you how eating a variety of fruits and vegetables along with lean proteins and healthy fats while reducing your consumption of sugar can help you gain better control of your blood sugars.

You may even discover some new favourite recipes as we did.

Exercise

Your CDE will teach how regular exercise is an important part of an effective diabetes management plan.

You will learn about the different types of exercise and their effect on the body.

You will learn that a combination of cardio and strength training will help manage your diabetes more efficiently.

A diabetes educator will also instruct you on when it is safe to exercise and when you should hold off for another time.

Adequate sleep

In the beginning, it was impossible for our daughter to get a good night’s sleep.

She was getting up every hour to check Alex’s blood sugar levels.

Once she identified his patterns, she would then stretch it our to 2 hours and now three hours.

If he sleeps over at our place, I get up every three hours to scan him, if he shows low I then do a finger poke. If that verifies the low I wake him for some apple juice and retest in 15 minutes to ensure his blood sugar levels are rising.

Once his blood sugars are rising we can then sleep for another three hours.

Yes, your sleep is broken but you soon adapt and learn to nap when necessary throughout the day.

Alex is such a trooper, he doesn’t wake unless we wake him for juice.

When he is low, sometimes he is hard to wake which can be very scary.

There are many variables when living with diabetes and your CDE will help you navigate through all the confusion to find the best plan for you.

Diabetes management

Your diabetes educator will also teach you the medical care you will need to become proficient at.

Blood Glucose Testing

What Is A Diabetes Educator? - finger pokes to test blood sugars

We learned how to pick Alex’s finger and test a drop of blood to determine whether his blood glucose levels were too high or too low at that moment in the day.

Given the amount of finger pokes throughout the day, it certainly didn’t take long to become proficient.

Alex often does his own finger pokes now which I think is pretty cool.

Counting carbs

As a result of our grandson’s diabetes, we learned how to count Alex’s carbs each meal and why it was necessary.

It soon became apparent that a kitchen scale would become an essential tool for any meal.

We learned how to accurately calculate how much insulin to give Alex each meal based on his carb count and recent blood sugar levels.

Giving Injections

What Is A Diabetes Educator? - insulin injectionsWe learned how to give his injection at each meal.

This was difficult at the beginning because he would cry at every injection. Since then he has become so accustomed to it that he doesn’t even flinch.

He has even given himself his injection a few times, with adult supervision of course (he is only 6).

We also learned to wake at night and check his sugars throughout the night.

This is important because he does sometimes go too low at night and we need to wake him for some apple juice.

Using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)

Eventually, Alex’s doctors decided a continuous glucose monitor(CGM) would be good for him. I have to agree.

It has significantly reduced the number of finger pokes which makes us all happy.

It is so much easier to simply scan the little disc on his arm.

We still do finger pokes if he scans too low or before meals to ensure an up-to-date reading for calculating his insulin.

Insulin Pumps

We don’t use an insulin pump yet but he is starting to ask about one. When his diabetes care team decides it is right for him then we will learn how to use it most effectively.

I know this seems like a lot of things to have to learn in a short amount of time.

Working with a certified diabetes educator is so important they really do help you make sense of this new normal.

Does Insurance cover it?

Medicare and most private insurers do cover the services of a certified diabetes educator (CDE).

In order to be covered by insurers, the education must meet certain government standards.

Check with your doctor and that your diabetes educator meets the standards to be covered.

I would also recommend checking with your particular insurer to be certain the CDE will be covered or you may have to pay out of pocket.

Our daughter is fortunate in that our son-in-law is serving with the Canadian Armed Forces and has an excellent health insurance plan.

Conclusion

I believe within this article I have answered the question “What Is A Diabetes Educator”.

A certified diabetes educator must be a registered healthcare worker who has worked in diabetes education for a minimum of 800 hours (in Canada) and has passed a Canadian Diabetes Educator’s Certification Board (CDECB) exam.

They are required to gain further education credits in order to maintain their certification or rewrite the test.

They will be a huge help in all aspects of diabetes management including nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medical care.

You will learn how to use all equipment and supplies needed to follow your diabetes care plan.

Certified Diabetes Educators are covered by most medical insurance companies.

They make up a valuable part of your diabetes management team.

I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.

Have you worked with a CDE?

How was your experience?

Were they able to help you better manage your diabetes?

Leave your answers in the comment section below.

Take care.


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12 thoughts on “What Is A Diabetes Educator?”

  1. Quite a list of expertise a Diabetes Educator must be able to do. It seems to me that must be very reassuring to know, once you have to work with one of them.

    Wow, and that you must check at night every 3 hours! I didn’t know that. I am a bad sleeper as it is, and whenever there is something coming up the next day, I will sleep restless. That must be even worse when you know you have to get out of bed during the night? You wrote you get used to it, but since he is not in your house all the time, I am just wondering how on earth you can get used to it. 🙂

    But your Alex indeed is a trooper, doing his own finger pokes and injections. I admire that boy! Good to read he has such a caring family and is doing well, Deb.

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Hannie.
      Yes, it is very reassuring to work with a certified diabetes educator. My daughter was so relieved to have their diabetes educator teach Alex’s school how to manage his diabetes, rather than her trying to remember everything they would need to know.
      As for getting up at night to check Alex, I don’t find it that difficult. I tend to be awake before the alarm to check him goes off. Maybe it is because I don’t need to do it every night that I find it easier. I know my daughter is exhausted, which is why we like to take Alex for sleepovers when we can. It is important to give her a much-needed break.
      Yes, I was surprised when our daughter mentioned that Alex gave himself his shot. Pretty impressive for a 6-year-old. He doesn’t do it regularly yet but it is a start. He has been asking about a pump lately so that might be the next thing to learn. Time will tell.
      Thanks again Hannie, take care.

      Reply
      • Kids are amazing, aren’t they. My grandchildren want to start a YouTube channel! They will get help from their dad of course, but I still think it’s impressive.

        I am glad it doesn’t take you that much trouble to get out of bed. And how good of you to relieve your daughter. You’re the best mother and grandmother I can think of. 🙂

        Reply
        • That is awesome news about your grandkids, Hannie. I am sure that is a result of the example set by you and Tom.

          Let me know their channel and I will be sure to check it out. I wish them all the best.

          Thanks for the compliment, we do our best to help each other.

          Best wishes to you all.

          Reply
  2. Hi Deb,

    This is such a great idea! I had never heard of a diabetes educator before! This must be so helpful for people out there he need this kind of person around.

    They are really well qualified so you would certainly feel comfortable having them around that is for sure.

    So glad to see exercise is highly recommended. I am a big exercise advocate for anyone who has any kind of illness to get the blood pumping around the body.

    I admire you and your daughter and your grandson. Sometimes we are given a big cross to bare and we always bare it with love. Sending much love to you guys,

    Kev

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Kev.

      I am glad you enjoyed the article.

      Yes, it is a BIG relief to work with such a knowledgeable person. It is our daughter and son-in-law that has regular meetings with the diabetes educator and they relay all important information to us.

      We haven’t had as much time with our grandkids as we would like to because of COVID restrictions. We are certainly looking forward to having more adventures with them.
      Exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand with living a healthy lifestyle and is something we have always done.

      That is what made Alex’s diagnosis so shocking to us all. Understanding the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes was key for us.

      I agree some have a big cross to bear and my heart goes out to them.

      We have found that living with diabetes really isn’t that difficult once you get over the initial learning curve. We still pretty much do life as before and have even taken Alex and his sisters on a three day sail in our boat with just a few tweaks to check blood sugars and give insulin or snacks.

      Thanks again and take care.

      Reply
  3. I think we all need to know information like this. It’s very important for us to learn how all this works, I don’t have someone that I know in my family that has type one diabetes, but my best friend has a grandma who does have that. I’m sure he will appreciate if I send this to him, and I’m sure he might actually even show this to his grandma. Thank you so much for this valuable information

    Reply
    • Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      You are right that we all need to understand what diabetes is and how best to help our family and friend should they ever find themselves struggling with this.

      Knowing that there are certified diabetes educators out there makes it so much easier.

      I am grateful you and your family are not battling diabetes.

      Thank you for passing on this information to your friend. I wish them every success.

      Take care.

      Reply
  4. Most people are not familiar with Type 1 diabetes at all and I am one of the unfortunate ones that got it from my father. I am sorry to hear about your grandson. I am on the same shoes as his. Thank you for your review on a Certified Diabetes Educator. This course will be something that I can use if I ever want to keep it as a back pocket just in case if i want to change my career path. 

    Reply
    • Hi Nuttanee, I am sorry to hear you and your father are also struggling with type 1 diabetes. 

      We were quite shocked when our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as we don’t have any family members with this disease. My mother had type 2 diabetes but that is entirely different. There is also no diabetes on our son-in-law’s side of the family either.

      I am grateful you enjoyed the article and wish you and your Dad all the best with managing your T1D.

      I wish you the best of luck in whatever career path you have chosen. I am sure you will do well.

      Reply
  5. Hello there, Debra! This is a very informative article. Diabetes educators sound like a huge help to society! It’s quite shocking how much people still don’t quite fully understand the illness. There doesn’t seem to be enough educators for the amount of people with the condition. I always wondered, do you happen to know what the salary of a diabetes educator is?

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Mike. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

      You are correct that there are so many people that don’t understand this disease.

      Even though my mother had type 2 diabetes I never took the time to learn about diabetes until our grandson was diagnosed.

      As with all health care workers, you are correct, there are not enough. A certified diabetes educator could expect to earn between 77,000 and 91,000 per year depending on experience and where in Canada they work. If they are in Atlantic Canada it would likely be less.

      I hope this clarifies that for you. Take care.

      Reply

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