Welcome to our Nurse Entrepreneur Series!
Meet Beverly Thomassian, RN, MPH, CDE, BC-ADM. Registered nurse, diabetes educator and founder/owner of Diabetes Education Services, Beverly is dedicated to making an impact in diabetes education through training clinicians and teaching patients how to take control of the disease.
Q. How long have you been a nurse? What’s your nursing background/experience?
A. I graduated from Pierce College in Los Angeles in 1985 and have been an RN for 29 years. My first job was on a med/surg unit, back in the day when gallbladder surgery patients stayed for five days. After a few years, I was hired at UCLA on the head and neck and urology unit. Working there was a game-changer. I witnessed so much suffering from potentially preventable diseases (mouth and throat cancers) and saw many patients lose their kidneys to the complications of diabetes, that I knew I had to do something to help prevent these complications.
I returned to school at UCLA to earn a master’s degree in public health, with a focus on health education and prevention. I also spent six months in Mexico, volunteering in a little pueblo as a community health worker. This time in Mexico shaped my views and values on how best reach people and provide education in a way that was meaningful and relevant to them and their situation.
Shortly after, I was hired as a manager and health educator at an HMO where I provided group classes to patients on diabetes, asthma, weight management and other topics. This experience gave me hundreds of hours of practice teaching patients. How to word things, how to reach their hearts, not just their heads.
That’s when I fell in love with teaching about diabetes. So many people are living with it and don’t get the information they need to succeed; or they are blamed and judged and called non-compliant. As a certified diabetes educator for more than 20 years, my personal goal is to promote a more humanistic approach to diabetes education and care. And to remember, that at the center of this condition, is a person living and struggling with diabetes every day. In 1994, I joined Stanford Hospital as the diabetes nurse specialist with the mandate to improve inpatient blood glucose control. In that job, I experienced tremendous autonomy and professional growth. It prepared me to start my own consulting company.
Q. What was the impetus for creating Diabetes Education Services? What services do you provide?
A. In 1998, I moved with my new husband to Chico, Calif., so he could start his pharmacy career. It felt like a natural time to start my own consulting company. Initially, my main focus was providing diabetes classes and consulting for hospitals who wanted to improve their inpatient diabetes care management.
Over time, we added three-day training courses to help health care professionals to prepare to become CDEs. During the recession, people had limited travel funds, so we created online courses so people could learn and earn CEs from their home or office. We know also offer live webcasts on a variety of diabetes topics. In addition, we sell books and diabetes teaching tools.
Q. Can you share any tips or resources for nurses who are interested in becoming a diabetes educator?
A. One of our main goals is to provide the tools and resources to help health care professionals succeed at becoming CDEs. According to the National Credentialing Board for Diabetes Education, you need to have your professional license for at least two years as an RN, RD, PT, PharmD, PA, MD (and others), plus accumulate 1,000 hours of diabetes self-management teaching experience to take the CDE® exam. You also need to complete 15 hours of diabetes related continuing education within two years of taking the exam. Our comprehensive program and resources include live seminars, online courses and self-study resources. See our articles and resources page for more info.
Q. What are the best things about being a nurse entrepreneur?
A. I love being my own boss and not having to get approval before moving forward on new innovations. I love that I can paint my office green and purple and surround myself with artwork that inspires me. The work hour flexibility is a real advantage and of course I love being a part of the diabetes community. I also love the feeling that I can make a difference in diabetes and inspire others to take action. We all have the power and potential to make a difference. I am also passionate about collaborating with other women-owned businesses. I think women working together has a magical energy.
Q. What are the greatest challenges?
A. Work life balance is the biggest issue. I have a husband and two boys (ages 9 and 12) who are very important to me. I want to be available for them and keep my household running smoothly. Plus, I teach dance classes. I find myself staying up late at night or waking up early to catch up on emails, my newsletters, etc. Managing the “books” is my least favorite job too. But, I like to know the financial standing of my business at all times and I am actually getting really good at reading a Profit and Loss statement.
Q. Looking back, as you started your business, what do you wish you had known? What advice would you give others?
A. Make sure you develop a business plan so you have a clear roadmap of where you want your business to go and set your goals. Seek advice from a small business development center in your area; they offer a wealth of resources to help your business succeed. When the going gets tough, don’t give up. Walk a lot while brainstorming on solutions and “workaround” ideas. And, my most important advice is surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you and your business.
Learn more about Diabetes Education Services here.
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Check out our other Q&As in the nurse entrepreneur series here.