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?
A certified diabetes educator may work in a variety of settings such as:
- physician offices
- 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:
- At diagnosis
- At annual check-ins or when you are not meeting health goals
- when faced with a new challenge
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Your diabetes educator will also teach you the medical care you will need to become proficient at.
Blood Glucose Testing
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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.