Diabetes Self-Management Educators— Providing Patients with the Tools to Manage Diabetes

Chances are you know someone who is living with diabetes. That’s because more than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. The effects of the disease are individual in nature and can be overwhelming. More people are dying from this chronic illness than ever before, but something can be done. Firelands Regional Medical Center is giving patients in our area a wide array of resources to manage their diabetes.

How do Diabetes Self-Management Educators help patients?

Firelands Center for Coordinated Care bolstered its efforts to provide inpatient and outpatient diabetes education to patients by hiring two full-time Diabetes Self-Management Educators.  

Today, Nathan Raftery, RN, DSME, and Brittany Frangella, RN, DSME provide the resources needed to control Brittany and Nate, pictured above, educating one of their patients with Dr. Lindbloom.Brittany and Nate, pictured above, educating one of their patients with Dr. Lindbloom.diabetes, catering specifically to each person during their stay at Firelands Regional Medical Center.

“These educators see about 40 patients each day who are either newly diagnosed with diabetes or who need help in managing it,” says Darla Gaiser, RPh, FASCP, director of Firelands Center for Coordinated Care. “Their job is to give the patients the information they need to manage diabetes right away with follow-up education to occur as an outpatient in the Center for Coordinated Care. Often, the amount of information a newly-diagnosed diabetic needs to hear can be overwhelming. That's where the personal, custom approach to inpatient education becomes important."

The hospitalists at Firelands Regional Medical Center see every medical patient admitted, and find that between 30 and 50 percent of the patients they see are diabetic. The need for diabetes education and disease management spans the patient population.

“The diabetic educators are integral to improving patient outcomes and quality of life for our patients," says Firelands Regional Medical Center adult hospitalist, Kristopher Lindbloom, DO. "Their availability to patients and the knowledge they provide for people with diabetes to return home with the tools and confidence they need is a true differentiator for Firelands. If you looked at other medical centers, you would see that very few offers this service."

Lindbloom says the program is still too new to examine any data related to outcomes, but he expects patients to see improvements in their quality of life and less hospital stays in the future. In addition to providing inpatient education, the educators link the patient up to outpatient resources at the Firelands Center for Coordinated Care.

"Certainly, if a person can manage their disease at home, they are going to live a better life," he says, "I tell most people that with proper education, lifestyle changes, and medicine, diabetics can live a healthy and normal life."

For Nathan Raftery, his experience as a Type I diabetic diagnosed as a teenager and with a Type II diabetic father in his life makes his role even more compelling. 

"I know what it is like to manage this disease,” he says. “I know that incremental changes in lifestyle can help and that managing diabetes is possible. I also know that not everyone learns the same, so I take a different approach with every patient I see. Sometimes that means returning to talk to a patient throughout their stay. The goal is to ensure that each patient feels confident enough to return to their daily lives while managing diabetes.”

When patients with diabetes are discharged from the medical center, they receive outpatient care at Firelands Center for Coordinated Care. They learn how nutrition helps to manage their disease, the importance of exercise, medication compliance, and insulin level testing. The Center for Coordinated Care works closely with each patient's primary care provider to ensure that diabetes management self-education works in concert with the management of any other health issues the patient may experience. Each patient meets with a diabetic educator as well as with the center's registered dietician Amanda Garman.

"The impetus behind adding the two diabetes health educators to our program was the hospitalists within the medical center," says Gaiser. "They saw people who needed help figuring out how to live well with diabetes. We are excited to provide this important service and hope to see better outcomes for patients, less readmission in the medical center, and improved community health, overall." 

Brittany and Nate see inpatients seven days a week, ensuring that every person who needs diabetic education has the tools they need before they leave the medical center.