What Is a Diabetes Educator?

Diabetes educators can be nurses or other health professionals who have specialized expertise in diabetes and lots of experience working with people who have it. Your diabetes educator will help you learn about all the things in your day-to-day life that can help control the disease -- like exercise, nutrition, medications, and checking your blood sugar.

What Is a Diabetes Educator?

They can be nurses or other health professionals who have specialized expertise in diabetes and lots of experience working with people who have it. They must pass an exam to become a certified diabetes educator, and they must renew their credentials every 5 years. This helps make sure that they stay up-to-date on the latest findings and breakthroughs.

Your diabetes educator will help you learn to take in stride all the things in your day-to-day life that can help control the disease -- like exercise, nutrition, medications, and checking your blood sugar. They may also work with your family so they understand your needs better and can be there to support you.

Does Diabetes Education Really Work?

Yes, it does. 

For example, it helps you keep good blood sugar levels. There's research to suggest that diabetes education can lower your risk of complications like nerve and kidney damage, which helps you avoid dialysis and gives you a better quality of life. Knowing what's going on with your body also helps you feel more in control of your health.

One study of more than 1,200 people who got four 30-minute, one-on-one sessions with diabetes educators had impressive results. Folks in the study learned about important self-care strategies, like:

  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise
  • Medication
  • Self-monitoring
  • Easing stress
  • Dealing with potential problems

They also had the chance to participate in group sessions.

After 15 months, they lowered their A1c levels (blood sugar across a 3-month period) by an average of 67%. Their LDL, or bad cholesterol, went down by 53%. Before the study, about 1/3 had high blood pressure; after the study, only 1/4 had it.

Will Insurance Cover It?

Yes, Medicare and most private insurers do.

But to be covered, an education program has to meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So check with your doctor to make sure your diabetes educator  does, unless you're going to pay the cost yourself.

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Get a Referral

The American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created a guide to help doctors make referrals to certified diabetes educators. It recommends seeing someone once a year as well as when:

  • You're first diagnosed
  • New problems come up that might affect how you manage your diabetes
  • Your treatment or care changes
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 23, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.

Burke, S. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, published online Feb. 12, 2014.

American Association of Diabetes Educators.

National Kidney Foundation.

McMurray, S. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, September 2002.

Medicare.gov.

American Diabetes Association.

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