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World Diabetes Day (WDD) is commemorated annually on 14 November – The theme of World Diabetes Day 2017 is Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future. With a staggering 1 in 10 women living with diabetes, the 2017 campaign will promote the:

*importance of affordable and equitable access to the essential diabetes treatments and technologies for all women at risk for or living with diabetes

*self-management education and information women require to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes

*strengthening of the capacity of women to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The successful management of a chronic condition such as diabetes is largely dependent on conscientious daily self-care, but for many, particularly at diagnosis, diabetes can feel overwhelming.

Leading up to this global event, the Centre of Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) is raising awareness around the importance of diabetes nurse educators (DNEs) for people with diabetes. In keeping with the 2017 WDD theme, the centre also wants to highlight the fact that dedicated women comprise the majority of this vital and often under-recognised profession. 

Sadly, despite the immense clinical importance and advocacy role of the DNE, neither legislated Prescribed Minimum Benefits for the treatment of people with diabetes nor most medical scheme benefits for diabetes explicitly include consultations with a DNE.

Hester Davel, a Registered Nurse and Diabetes Educator/Diabetes Coach at CDE, says diabetes educators/coach play an integral part in facilitating the day-to-day self-management of diabetes. 

“Diabetes educators are highly trained registered health professionals with an extensive experience in diabetes and in life. We help those living with diabetes to gain knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to become more active in their own diabetes management. People with diabetes need to identify their own health goals,” she explains. 

With an estimated up to 4.6 million people in South Africa possibly living with diabetes, and potentially the same number at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, those diagnosed face the risk of life-changing and life-limiting complications unless they receive the care and the support they need to manage their condition well.

 “The goals of self-management education are an increase in diabetes knowledge and skills, changes in attitude and motivation, agreement with treatment and improved care. One of the main tasks is listening to the patient’s way of experiencing their condition and its treatment, and promoting the patient’s understanding of it,” says Davel.

This ongoing process requires passion, time and dedication - Sister Fiona Prins, another Diabetes Nurse Educator (DNE), know this only too well. “When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, many thoughts will often run through their minds.  

“How did I get this?”, “How will I manage from now on?”, “How will this ever fit into my life?”, “Will I land up in a wheelchair like my aunt?”, “What can I eat now?” and “Does this mean I can’t party anymore?” That’s just a few of the possibilities and this is exactly where the DNE comes in. 

"Our role is to answer these types of questions and to facilitate the discussion of a way forward that is sustainable and manageable,” she says.

DNEs help people living with diabetes discover a personal care plan option.  “Our approach may vary depending on factors like the person’s stage of life and for how long they have had diabetes. But, the bulk of our developing role definitely leans more towards health coaching than education. 

"We are no longer just information dispensers – our role is to facilitate the optimal growth of each person. Because diabetes is not a stagnant and defined condition, its treatment often evolves to suit the developing needs of each person with diabetes. 

"The available options need to be explored, debated and decided upon based on the best information available,” says Prins.

Registered DNEs have completed a recognised postgraduate Diabetes Management training programme such as the CDE 5-Day Advanced Diabetes Course for Health Professionals, a Diabetes Education Society of South Africa (DESSA) Diabetes Management Course or an International Diabetes Federation (IDF) course. They also have a minimum of five years’ full time experience in a diabetes clinic or practice (more than 50% diabetes focussed).

To become an Accredited DNE, the practitioner needs to have been registered as a DNE for at least two to three years and have completed a one-year postgraduate Diploma in Diabetes management. DESSA reviews submissions and issues the appropriate certification. Both these recognitions are not permanent and require renewal every five years with DESSA.

 “A diabetes educator is a great resource for people with diabetes. If you are newly diagnosed or have trouble controlling your diabetes and related conditions, a diabetes educator can help you take charge of your condition and implement the medical advice of your doctor. Ask your doctor to refer you to a diabetes educator in your area. You may meet one-on-one with an educator or in a group setting. 

"The cost of seeing a diabetes educator may be covered by your medical aid (usually out of the saving portion), but even if not, the benefits will be well worth the investment. All people living with diabetes have the right to information and assistance with their condition. We strongly encourage people living with diabetes to stay in touch with a DNE on a regular basis,” says Davel.

(Adapted from a press release)