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Supporting people with diabetes is 'a real honour'

A diabetes educator and nurse talks about why her
Photo: Supporting people with diabetes is 'a real honour'
A midwife turned Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) has opened up about how rewarding it is to help people with diabetes to live well and thrive. 

“I love meeting new people, and that’s a big part of being a diabetes educator”, said Amanda Bartlett, a CDE based in Sydney.

“You learn about their challenges, how they're living with diabetes, and CDEs can make a really huge difference in supporting people to live their best lives possible with diabetes”, she told HealthTimes.

CDEs are qualified health professionals who specialise in educating, supporting and promoting self-management of diabetes.

“There is one story that’s very close to my heart. There’s a couple who I have supported over the last four years and I was with them on their journey preparing for and supporting through pregnancy”, Ms Bartlett said.
“And there were lots of false starts along the way, but she's just finally given birth and that baby to me will always be very, very special because it was such a long journey for her and her partner.”

“And I think in particular for women living with diabetes, who choose or want to have families, it can be a really lonely, long experience and to support people in that space is a real honour.”

Ms Bartlett said it was when she immigrated to Australia and worked as a midwife that she was first inspired to become a CDE.

“While I was working in midwifery, I saw how there was a real need for women who developed diabetes in pregnancy, or had pre-existing diabetes, to have a skilled diabetes educator there to support them. And that's how I kind of ended up down that path and became a CDE”

She said that in the years since becoming a CDE, “the world has really changed.”

“It’s become such a highly technical space. And the time spent looking at technology to support people living with diabetes and their families is extremely challenging.”

“There’s a huge amount of people with diabetes out there who don't seek out those pathways to education and what we offer.”

“And I think that’s because many people just still don’t know what a CDE is.”

“One of the most challenging things is trying to get the word out there to people living with diabetes - that we can support them to live well and to make improvements in their diabetes, reduce diabetes complications, and also reduce the health burden to
the government.”

However, the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA), word of mouth and online forums are proving very helpful in spreading the word about CDEs.

“Within ADEA we work hard to promote the CDE and have just released The Pathways project to assist with referrals to CDE. Also, when we make one person's life better, they will often tell the next person, and then their GP, and word will get out. I hope we are seen as specialists who can make a real difference.”

Ms Bartlett said that working alongside people on their journey with diabetes is a very special experience.

“I do a lot of work in the technology space. And so sometimes I meet people who have had diabetes for quite a long time, and they choose to stop using injections and switch onto using an insulin pump or CGMs [continuous glucose monitoring]”.

“And when you work with them really closely over six months and you see their glucose control improve dramatically and they say to you, ‘I sleep well’, ‘I’m not scared anymore’ or ‘I feel better’, it is so rewarding.”

“That’s what you live for. It’s all you want as an educator."

Like with many other healthcare professionals, COVID-19 has triggered changes in the way Ms Bartlett provides care.

“When we were initially seeing the numbers in New York and what was happening there, there was a lot of fear in March last year for people with diabetes.”

“And I had a lot of calls from my current patients and from new patients desperate to improve their control.”

“I think we did a really great job in Australia around reassuring and supporting people with diabetes to stay well.

“The step-up to telehealth for some of us was fairly easy.”

“But I think for non-English speaking people and for the elderly, it's been difficult, and we’ve learned along the way.”

“We've become clever at adapting telehealth to each person, but also put in those realistic expectations. At the end of the day, it is still a health consultation, and we need the person to be focused on that and not distracted.”

Ms Bartlett said she has also welcomed the flexibility afforded by the expansion of telehealth.

“You could be doing foot care from Victoria, for someone in Perth. And I think that's incredible.”

“I’d be very sad actually if we saw the Medicare provider numbers for telehealth removed, because I think it does really help us to help people.”

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.