From her earliest years, Linda Siminerio, PhD, RN, CDE, has been driven by a desire to gain and impart knowledge about diabetes. Siminerio’s journey began as a child, watching her father struggle with the disease, and continued through her work as a nurse and as one of the country’s first diabetes educators.
Now, Siminerio serves as director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute and chairwoman of the National Diabetes Education Program, positions from which she helps to shape the care of the more than 29 million Americans living with diabetes.
Siminerio believes few healthcare professionals influence care of people with diabetes more than nurses. To help improve that care, Siminerio offers some tips:
For many who come to learn they have diabetes, the first diagnosis is made while they are admitted to a hospital and receive care for health problems they or even their care providers may not initially believe are connected to a diabetic condition.
Siminerio recommended nurses continue to refresh themselves on the signs of diabetes and possible related health effects to remain sharp on when screening may be warranted, if it isn’t already part of routine blood work for all inpatients.
Ask if a patient has ever been screened for blood sugar issues.
“The process has to be patient-centered,” Siminerio said. “Ask: ‘What’s driving this admission?’”
Most patients who have been admitted to a hospital are naturally frightened and may be angry.
That can only be increased if they are told for the first time they have diabetes or if they have experienced a worsening of the disease.
Nurses, Siminerio said, are in a prime spot in those situations to solve problems to help patients learn about what’s happening and help them gain the understanding and survival skills they’ll need when they leave the hospital and must care for themselves.
“It can take a lot of encouragement and listening,” she said.
STAY WITH IT
Burn out can be real among patients with diabetes, even among patients who have done well in caring for themselves for long periods of time.
“Diabetes can be very, very burdensome,” she said. “Everybody can get burned out.”
That, she said, is when nurses can step in and reassure patients, reminding them not only how to manage their condition, but also why they should stick with it.
“We need to be very understanding, to know what it’s like to live with a chronic condition,” she said.
A range of resources are available to nurses looking to keep up not only with what’s known about the disease, but also the latest trends and treatment equipment and techniques.
Siminerio recommended nurses make a point of visiting NDEP’s website (ndep.nih.gov) and “tap into the rich resources” available there for nurses of all specialties to improve care for patients of all kinds.