No matter where you are along your diabetes journey, diabetes self-management education and training may be beneficial. Living with diabetes often means juggling many factors that may affect a person’s daily blood glucose highs and lows – including therapeutic insulin, carb counting and meal plans, fitness activities, stress, monitoring blood glucose levels and more. For this reason, diabetes education has been called the “cornerstone” of diabetes management.
What is it exactly? Diabetes self-management education and training (or DSME/T) is an ongoing process to help people living with diabetes develop the skills and knowledge to self-manage their disease. The process takes a person’s specific needs, goals and experiences into account but is also guided by evidence-based standards. The aim of DSME/T is to provide a person living with diabetes the tools to make informed decisions, solve problems, collaborate with their healthcare team – in order to live a more healthy life and help reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. The timeline and areas of instruction vary and may be shaped in consultation with a person’s diabetes care team.
The education itself provides basic information about diabetes and what is happening in the body. It may also provide instruction on medications, how to track blood glucose levels, techniques for stress management, exercise tips and learning to design meal plans and count carbohydrates as part of making more healthful nutrition and lifestyle choices. DSME/T may also include emotional support, a potentially helpful aspect of managing diabetes.
The National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education recommend that DSME/T be delivered by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare and education professionals. Team members may be seen individually over time and include registered nurses, registered dietitians, pharmacists, physicians, behaviorists, exercise physiologists, ophthalmologists, optometrists or podiatrists.
Who should receive DSME/T? Anyone living with diabetes may benefit from the education, especially those newly diagnosed, and the training may be partly or wholly covered by health insurance or Medicare. Not many people may be taking advantage of the opportunity, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that less than 7% of people who have health insurance receive any education within the first year of a diabetes diagnosis. Some people don’t receive DSME/T because they were not referred to a diabetes educator by their doctor. Others do not seek education and training for their own reasons. But DSME/T can be a helpful tool. Diabetes education is the perfect time to ask questions and get answers.
While education is important at the beginning of the diabetes journey, it may also play a role further down the road. Think of it as an opportunity to learn about how diabetes progresses over time and how to live well with it no matter how many years since diagnosis. It’s been my experience that people who have lived with diabetes for many years still benefit from meeting with a diabetes educator.
Personally, I have been living with diabetes for almost 40 years, and worked as a diabetes professional for 20 years, and I can still learn something new when I meet with my diabetes care team. Ask your doctor about DSMT/E if he or she hasn’t yet brought up the subject with you.
Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE*, is the author of People With Diabetes Can Eat Anything: It’s All About Balance. Jane is excited to be working with the next generation of diabetes educators at Teachers College Columbia University, where she is the program coordinator for the solely online Master of Science in Diabetes Education. Dickinson is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience