Q & A with Debra Ollanketo, RN and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

Deborah Ollanketo, RN and Certified Diabetes Educator

Deborah Ollanketo, RN and Certified Diabetes Educator

What does a Diabetes Educator do?

A CDE provides education to help an individual learn diabetes care skills, also called diabetes self management training.  This includes teaching about the condition and its treatment; medications, blood sugar testing, exercise, nutrition, preventing and managing complications, behavior change, and coping skills.

Diabetes educators are licensed healthcare professionals, including registered nurses, registered dietitians, and pharmacists.  A Certified diabetes educator has earned the CDE credential which demonstrates specialized knowledge in the field of diabetes education.

The CDE must stay current in diabetes care and be re-certified every five years.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?

It’s important to know any medications and supplements, such as vitamins and herbal supplements the individual is taking.  Patients should carry a current list of medications and show it to every healthcare provider they meet with.  If the person has a blood sugar meter, we ask them to bring it with them as well. We will ask medical history questions and we usually receive information about lab results from the patient’s doctor when they are referred to our service.

Diabetes self management training is usually covered by Medicare and most insurance plans, however, deductibles and payment varies widely between insurance plans. The person can call their insurance company to find out about coverage for diabetes education.

An important factor in being covered by Medicare is that the Diabetes program is recognized by the American Diabetes Association.  Memorial Medical Center is an ADA recognized program and must be recognized every 4 years.

What are three questions patients should consider asking during their visit?

What type of diabetes do I have?  How can I best manage diabetes to prevent complications?  and Am I willing to make the changes that will help me manage this condition?

Diabetes is not curable, however, it can be managed and the most important factors are eating healthy foods and exercising every day.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about Diabetes?

That they did something to cause diabetes.  It is true that lack of exercise, eating a lot of sugar, and weight gain can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is something that can “run in families” and genetics play a part in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.  We always ask about a family history of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition, which means that it starts with the body’s immune system attacking the pancreas cells that make insulin.

Some research into gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy shows that the mother and baby are both at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.   What we do know is that as the rates of obesity increase, the diagnosis of diabetes also increases.

So I would say that people need to get over the idea that they did something bad that caused their diabetes and focus on how they can get their blood sugars in better control.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?

Make up your mind to learn all you can about diabetes and be willing to make the changes that will help you.  It isn’t the nurse or doctor that is going to take care of this.  You are.

Most people have a bit of denial when they are first diagnosed with diabetes. “I ate a piece of cake or candy and that’s why the test was high. “

There are two main tests the doctor does to diagnosis diabetes. One is a fasting blood sugar and the other is a glycosylated hemoglobin test, also called an A1C. The test shows how much sugar is attached to the red blood cell and it’s an average over the past two to three months.

A normal fasting blood sugar (nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours) is less than 100.
A normal A1C is less than 6. So if the A1C is higher than 6.0, it means your sugars have been high for a while.  It isn’t from eating one piece of candy or cake.

If folks wanted additional health information about Diabetes what are some available resources?

The American Diabetes Association is a great resource and it’s free. The toll-free number is 1-800-Diabetes (1-800-342-2383) or online it’s www.diabetes.org.  There are many diabetes websites that provide reliable and accurate information.