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How Can Nurses Help Diabetes Patients?


People diagnosed with diabetes must follow lifelong care plans to manage the disease. Nurses are at the forefront of educating and treating diabetic patients. While doctors may create a diabetes care plan, it usually falls to nurses to provide care and to educate patients about managing diabetes.

Diabetes is a complex disease that requires nurses to stay up to date on the latest approaches to managing the condition. RNs can gain expert knowledge and skills vital to improving diabetes care by completing an RN to BSN program. These programs offer additional training in evidence-based nursing care.

General Nursing Care

In the doctor’s office, nurses can assess patients before they see the doctor and then answer questions after the doctor’s visit. Nurses can also provide diabetic wound care. This care is important because diabetes slows the healing of wounds, especially on the feet.

In the hospital, nurses can look for signs that an undiagnosed person might have diabetes. Nurses know that diabetic patients are at higher risk for problems such as infections, disturbed sensory perception and nutritional imbalances. Nurses can identify these problems early and provide the needed care.

Nurses working with diabetic patients have five priorities, according to

  1. Restore the balance of fluids, electrolytes and the acid-base balance
  2. Correct/reverse abnormal metabolic functions
  3. Help manage the underlying cause of diabetes and the disease process
  4. Prevent diabetic complications
  5. Educate patients about diabetes and how it affects the body, self-care and necessary treatments

Diabetes Educator

Beyond treating diabetic patients in a doctor’s office or hospital, nurses can take on the specialized role of diabetes educator. These educators teach people with diabetes to understand and manage the following:

  • How to change health habits, including making supportive food choices, exercising and quitting smoking, if applicable
  • How to use a blood glucose monitor to check blood sugar and track diabetes
  • How to use diabetes medications, including how to self-administer insulin shots
  • How to deal with an insulin reaction
  • How to recognize symptoms of low and high blood glucose and what to do if they occur
  • How to check feet for wounds that might require medical attention

Diabetes educators give diabetic patients the tools and ongoing support they need to follow their diabetic care plan in their daily lives. Nurses who choose to specialize in diabetes education can become a Certified Diabetes Educator through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.

Beyond the BSN

Nurses who want to go further in treating diabetes patients can earn an advanced degree. Advanced practice registered nurses (nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists) can diagnose and prescribe medication and take on the added responsibilities of advanced diabetes management. They have the option of becoming board certified in Advanced Diabetes Management through the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

A nurse can work with diabetes patients on many levels, each of which is critical to helping the millions of people who must live with the disease. Ongoing education, be it an RN to BSN program or an advanced degree, is essential to providing the best possible care.

Learn about the Lamar University online RN to BSN program.


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