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Diabetes nurse reflects on versatile career

Kathleen Lawton, RN

As (Nursing Spectrum) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, we take a look back at a nurse who appeared in the inaugural issue of the New England edition.

Kathleen Lawton was featured on the cover of the Sept. 29, 1997, Nursing Spectrum New England magazine when she was the program coordinator of the Diabetes Prevention Program at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. The program was a large-scale National Institutes of Health clinical research study that aimed to prevent or slow the progress of type 2 diabetes.

Lawton, RN, CDE, now works at Concord (Mass.) Hillside Medical Associates, part of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, caring for patients with diabetes. She took some time recently to speak with about her career. What was it like to be featured in the magazine? Did you get a response from people after it appeared?

Kathleen Lawton: Some nurses who knew me saw it and contacted me, but that was before social media — if you can remember back that far. It was exciting around the place that I worked.

How has your career changed since you were featured in the magazine?

I was at that job [with Joslin] until 2002.

My career path is really driven by layoffs of myself, layoffs of my husband and me having children. I don’t know if I ever said it in that article, but I actually am a person who has type 1 diabetes. So I was actually working at Joslin during my childbearing years so I could have my babies and my appointments and all that. I have two daughters.

The clinical trial was downsizing and going into a follow-up mode, so they were looking for just two people to continue. So I just said this was a good time for me to change modes, otherwise I would have had to ask one of the nurses to be laid off.

So I sort of stepped down there after I had my second child.

Then my husband was laid off and couldn’t find work, and I went back full time. I worked as a drug safety associate at Parexel International in Waltham, Mass. They help do parts of clinical trial work for other pharmaceutical companies and such. I worked there in medical research on diabetes studies. That was for a year until 2004.

Then they had huge international layoffs, and I was laid off there. So then it was a struggle of having two kids, trying to see if I could find something that wasn’t exactly full time.

So I worked at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center [in Worcester, Mass.] starting to see diabetes patients and hoping to become a certified diabetes educator. I worked there for a year, and then a position opened at Concord Hillside, so I’ve been there ever since. Nursing has been a versatile career.

What do you like about your nursing specialty?

It’s definitely a growing field for nurses. Diabetes is very much on the rise — type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes. The average person doesn’t know very much about it, so when they get it, they’re very shocked and upset. They don’t know what it means.

I like [the specialty] because you can help people live healthier lives.

Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?

Still working like a dog [laughs].

I actually would like to sort of switch, but I’m not sure which direction I’m going in. I’m kind of interested in clinical research and medical writing or document writing or data management in clinical research. I definitely have a loyalty to diabetes because I think there’s such a shortage of people working in that field for such a growing scene. •

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.

READ MORE of’s silver anniversary Q&As with nurses from across the nation at

By | 2020-04-15T09:08:05-04:00 January 14th, 2013|Categories: National|0 Comments

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