You Don’t Need to be a CDE to Provide Diabetes Self-Management Education

Cathy Cabanban, RD, LDN, CDELong before I became a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), I was providing Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) as a registered dietitian in an ADA Recognized Program. I had lots of education and experience in diabetes, but was not working towards my CDE. I thank a former manager for encouraging me to become certified, which I did in 2002. In the process, I was fortunate to work with other CDE’s who helped me achieve this goal.

Today, there are approximately 15,000 CDE’s in the U.S., and another 15,000 diabetes educators who are not credentialed (Diabetes Education Fact Sheet). These diabetes educators are registered nurses, registered dietitians, registered pharmacists, exercise physiologists, etc. Certainly, these healthcare professionals can and do provide effective DSME.

Do you ever wonder where you stand, as far as your current education and experience, in your ability to provide DSME?

Check out the Competencies for Diabetes Educators to see the five DSME provider levels.

Some of you may be non-clinical staff with minimal training in diabetes education (Level 1). Even though you don’t provide DSME, your role as a liaison between the patient and diabetes educator is vital. Some of you may be expert educators (Level 5), with skills and education enabling you to mange complex patients.

Let me know where you stand today, and if you hope to increase your patient experience and education to move upward. Or, if you have just reached a level of education or credential and would like to share your accomplishment, let me know!

I speak to diabetes educators weekly who want to provide DSME, specifically using the diabetes Conversation Map® education tools, but are hesitant to use, fearing they may not know all the answers when facilitating a session. When we provide DSME in a didactic fashion, such as lecturing, we are “in charge” of the information that is delivered to the patient, because we control the content! This is not necessarily best for patients, but it usually makes the educator feel more confident.

Patients dictate the direction of a Conversation Map session. Many educators worry that because the patients are now in charge, they may be asked questions about medications, foods, or complications that they are not prepared to answer.

I recommend using the Facilitator Guide to help your session run smoothly and to keep you on track. Prepare ahead of time by reviewing the Facilitator Guide before the session. Look up answers to questions you are unsure of and write the answers inside the guide. This way, you have done your homework! If a question comes up that you can’t answer, be truthful. Let your patients know that you do not know the answer, but will get back to them promptly with the correct response. This will help you to identify your needs for continuing education, and may help motivate you to achieve YOUR next level as a provider of DSME.

As the treatment of diabetes continues to evolve, it’s important that we continue to increase our knowledge and understanding of the disease so we can provide the highest quality education we can to meet our patients’ needs.

As educators, we make goal-setting a priority in our patient sessions. Shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?


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