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Educated, engaged patients, better diabetes outcomes

Education is a key aspect of chronic disease care, and patients with diabetes need it at 4 key times.

3 min read


Educated, engaged patients, better diabetes outcomes


It’s a challenging time in health care, and clinicians who provide care to patients with chronic diseases are especially affected by pressure to manage costs and improve care coordination. With limited time and resources, they may not have time to provide the education necessary to help patients manage their condition, yet evidence shows this is a key aspect of supporting good health outcomes. SmartBrief spoke with registered nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator ® Joan Bardsley to learn more.

Rising diabetes incidence means more patients need chronic disease care, yet nurse and physician shortages continue to be a problem in many areas. Help us understand how patient education fits in this environment where clinicians are doing more with less.

Joan Bardsley

It is so true that the shortages affect patient education. Yet empowering patients to take care of their diabetes actually improves outcomes. Education helps improve HbA1c independent of other interventions. It has always been difficult to encourage providers to create a referral for diabetes self-management education and support. However, education supporting self-care can be a hugely beneficial supplement to the medical care.

Put us in the shoes of a newly diagnosed patient: What feelings are they experiencing, and what kind of learning curve are they on?

Every person is different, but some common threads exist. Those with type 2 diabetes often feel guilt. “If only I had…” Many have known family and friends who have diabetes and only associate complications with the disease. Yet as educators, we can talk about the benefits of control and work with the individual to come up with realistic plans to manage diabetes. Education is often focused on dispelling misinformation. Patients learn that they are in control of their diabetes, and the provider and education teams are there to support them

How can a Certified Diabetes Educator support patient care at this critical time?

CDEs focus on listening and assessing rather that creating plans for care that are unrealistic and not individualized. Educators work with those with diabetes to help them incorporate management into their unique lives.

At what other times might a referral to a Certified Diabetes Educator be particularly beneficial?

There are four critical times that education is most important: At diagnosis; annually for early assessment of educational needs; when transitions in care occur; and finally, if complications arise.

How does diabetes education support patient outcomes?

Diabetes education supports patient outcomes in several ways:

1. The evidence is clear that that those who participate in diabetes self-management education and support have improved HbA1c.

2. Plans of care are individualized and change over time based on the person’s needs and circumstances. It is not one-size-fits-all.

3. Certified Diabetes Educators can share information about the latest on technology, treatments, lifestyle support and references. Education empowers those with diabetes to focus on self-care.

Joan Bardsley MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE serves as assistant vice president of nursing and research integration for MedStar Health Research Institute and MedStar Corporate Nursing.  She has over 40 years’ experience in health care with a specialty in diabetes self-management education. She served as the President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators in 2014 and is chair of the National Certification Board of Diabetes Educators. Learn more about certification and diabetes education from the NCBDE, including how to find a CDE.