Certified Diabetes Educators Aim to Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Diabetes

Diabetes and prediabetes affect more than 100 million American adults and nearly 3 million Texans, but despite the prevalence, there are still many myths or misconceptions among the general public about the disease. It’s not uncommon to have questions and concerns after any diagnosis. Paige Vogl, a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian at Texas Health Fort Worth, works to help ease those fears and answer any questions patients may have, teaching them the skills they need to manage this lifelong disease.

“I think we really ease people’s fears when they come in because they’re very nervous about what’s going to be taken away from them,” Vogl says. “Then they learn that it’s all a matter of controlling carbohydrates and consuming a consistent level of those at each meal. I think it makes people feel so much better, knowing that they can eat just like everyone else and eat the same things that their families are eating but it’s possibly in different quantities. A certified diabetes educator can help calculate what’s appropriate for their needs.”

Vogl is part of a multidisciplinary team of diabetes educators, registered nurses and registered dietitians within the Diabetes Education Program who help individuals manage their disease through education, positive reinforcement and ongoing motivation. At any of the 10 centers across the metroplex, program participants learn how to monitor blood sugar, manage their medications and make smart dietary choices. They also receive information on exercise, stress management, and how to detect and prevent disease complications.

At each center, patients with type 1, type 2, gestational and pre-diabetes receive individualized, comprehensive information.

“We start off seeing someone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes for an individual visit first. We really try to get to know the person by finding out what their specific needs are and what they are wanting to learn about diabetes at that moment,” Vogl explains. “We provide them education about what diabetes is and discuss blood sugar goals. A certified diabetes educator can describe the pathophysiology of diabetes and how the body responds to food. This really helps people understand the rationale behind spreading carbs out evenly or why managing stress is so important, and so on.”

Although Vogl admits patients can jump on the internet to learn more about their disease, she says nothing compares to the face time, group classes and completely individualized coaching they can receive through the program.

“We empower our patients by truly teaching them all about diabetes the same way we teach nurses … that way they know how to manage it themselves: how to make a meal plan, how to look at blood glucose levels, how their medication affects their bodies and how to make decisions going forward. We want them to understand the whole process so they can become their own health manager,” says Brian Primm, director of comprehensive diabetes care at Texas Health Resources.

After the initial consultation, participants in the program are encouraged to sign up for the various group classes offered at the centers. The classes go more in-depth on topics such as meal planning and portion sizes, stress management, exercise, nutrition, and how all of these things play an important role in influencing blood sugar levels. Although every aspect of the program is important, Vogl says she sees the most impact on patients through the group classes.

“The group classes are nice because people can interact with each other and they can see that there are other people who have the same disease, and they learn from each other,” she says. “They swap stories and suggestions, and I think the personal connection that happens in those group classes can almost be more meaningful to the patient than anything else.

“A patient with a new diagnosis of diabetes may meet someone in class who has had diabetes for many years but didn’t manage their disease and may have complications, and they’ll say ‘Man, I wish I could go back and make these changes right at the beginning.’ Someone who may be newly diagnosed and hearing that can understand the importance of really prioritizing their health. That might be scary at first, but I also know that it can help the patient realize that diabetes is a serious condition, but they do have quite a bit of control over the management of their blood sugar numbers.”

All it takes to get started at any of the various diabetes education centers is a referral by your physician. From there the center will contact you to set up a time to meet individually. Vogl says the centers can even work with you if your physician refers you to a location close to their practice but another location works better for you.

There is a cost associated with the diabetes education programs, but many insurances cover part of the cost. The centers can help you understand your benefits and let you know what out-of-pocket costs you may have to pay based on your insurance.

“We’re always willing to work with a patient’s insurance to get them in the door,” Primm says. “For the underinsured or uninsured, we try to help them get as much education as possible. If they are actively seeking help, we try to get them whatever level of help they need.”

While cost may be a barrier, both Primm and Vogl stress how valuable learning about diabetes, working with someone who will coach you through ups and downs and advocate for your health is worth every minute and every penny.

“Diabetes unfortunately is a chronic condition — it does not go away. Especially for people newly diagnosed, I think it’s essential that they meet with a certified diabetes educator to receive information on how to manage this disease,” Vogl says. “Sometimes it is an investment in time and maybe even resources, but attending classes and appointments to learn skills to help manage a lifelong disease is critical. Meeting one-on-one and coming to classes — there’s just much more to be gained from that contact.”

For more information about prediabetes and diabetes or Texas Health’s diabetes outpatient centers, or to take a diabetes risk assessment, visit TexasHealth.org/Diabetes.

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