Why Do I Need to See a Diabetes Educator?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 23 million people in the United States. If managed well, people with diabetes can live normal, healthy lives. However, the many devastating effects of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes are fairly well known: Diabetes, which increases a person's chances of heart attack or stroke by 200% to 400%, respectively, is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. But with proper management and control through daily food, fitness, medication and lifestyle choices, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetes related complications.

That said, diabetes is largely a "self-care" disease, which means that most of the time, you are in charge of many day-to-day decisions that affect your condition. This responsibility puts an individual with diabetes in the driver’s seat of their personal care team—and that's a lot of pressure!

So what's the most important tool you need to successfully manage diabetes? Knowledge.

There is a lot of information available about diabetes. In the information age, there is certainly no shortage of diabetes related books, cookbooks, websites, and magazines. Unfortunately, information about diabetes is not always credible and some of the information out there is just flat-out incorrect or bad advice. How do you decide whether the information you read or hear about diabetes is safe and reliable? Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. A diabetes educator can help!

A Certified Diabetes Educator is a qualified professional—typically, a registered nurse, registered dietitian, or a pharmacist— that provides diabetes self-management education (DSME) or diabetes self-management training (DSMT). The American Association of Diabetes Educators defines DSMT as a collaborative process through which people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to change behavior and successfully self-manage diabetes and its related conditions. DSMT typically focuses on the following seven behaviors—sometimes referred to as the AADE7 TM Self-Care Behaviors:
  1. Healthy eating
  2. Being active
  3. Monitoring
  4. Taking medication
  5. Problem solving
  6. Healthy coping
  7. Reducing risks
Your diabetes educator will help you understand what is going on inside your body. You'll learn the best methods of daily self-care and how everyday decisions regarding physical activity, meal planning, testing your blood sugar, taking your medication, and checking your feet all impact your condition—and your risk for the complications. Finally, a diabetes educator can explain the basic diabetes care you should be receiving from their doctor such as A1C testing, foot exams, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks.

While there is typically a fee charged to receive diabetes education from a Certified Diabetes Educator, it is important to note that many health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover this cost. Contact your insurance carrier to make certain that your plan covers diabetes self-management education. If you are uninsured, you may be able to find free or reduced cost programs through your local health department or hospital. Even if you have to pay some money out of pocket, it will be a very important investment in your health!

While SparkPeople offers many free resources and tools for people with diabetes (created by registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators), these are no substitute for the personalized education and detailed knowledge you'll gain by visiting a diabetes educator near you. Because of the positive impact it can have on diabetes care and diabetes outcomes, it is highly recommended that all individuals with diabetes meet with a diabetes educator. Talk with your doctor or visit www.DiabetesEducator.org to find a diabetes educator in your area.


Diabetes Education Fact Sheet from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (www.diabeteseducator.org).

Diabetes Statistics from the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org).
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Member Comments

This is a great way to start on the road to controlling your diabetes. Report
This is a good article. I have had diabetes for years but did not want it made "official" as I was planning on going back to work and did not want it to be a "pre-existing condition." Years later it got worse and became official but I never met with a dietician or knew that I could. Now I struggle to eat healthy..when I am doing good it is no processed foods, sugar or simple carbs...I try to stick with meats, veggies and fruit. But I fall off the wagon too often. II have a binging/fasting disorder that is mostly under control but not always. SparkPeople helps me a lot. I am going to search for a dietician I can meet with. Report
These resources are helpful thanks. My husband was diagnosed with diabetes and took classes. Unfortunately he did not listen to their recommendations and it is very frustrating for me. Maybe if I print some of these resources it may help. Report
Thanks Report
Mine was very good. She also has diabetes so she knows what I deal with every day. Report
Good to know. Report
thank you Report
I see a dibetic counsellor every 3 months. Tells me all I need to know. Very encouraging and answers any questions. Report
thanks for sharing Report
thanks for a great awareness article. Report
DH and I went to one back in April. It was the best thing we ever did...learned so much and have now have the tools to really understand how to manage his diabetes. Report
Education is the key but I've found I had to educate myself. Like a few of the posters here my diabetes educator was not the best. I've been to a few others and some were OK, some not so OK but none were great, nor did they follow up. Report
When I was diagnosed, our insurance provider made you go to 8 hours of class. Received a Book with info, a wellness instructor, and lots doctors to provide us with help including a psychologist who showed and told us how our mental health played a big part in keeping our diabetes under control. I am many years into this program and they have never wavered in their support of us. Report
Yes. Education is very important. I was in my 40's when my first primary doctor said false positives are common, and I didn't have diabetes. I took my lab results to a new primary, who said a fbt over 120 is considered diabetic (mine had been creeping up steadily for 6 years when it hit 236); he handed me a bunch of pamphlets, a bunch of pills, a test kit, and made an appointment with a dietitian. I went home, read everything, and did what the pamphlets said. At the appointment, the dietitian gave me a bunch of paperwork, then a booklet with questions for me to answer. I completed the booklet at the meeting, she went over my answers, then said there wasn't anything she could tell me that I didn't already know. I was embarrassed for taking her time, then went home. Nobody needs that kind of diabetes educator. Report


About The Author

Amy L. Poetker
Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.