World Diabetes Day: ‘The diabetes nurse is often the most reliable member on the team’

  • Nurses play a significant role in preventive medicine, including diabetes
  • Yet, they represent a large proportion of the shortage of healthcare workers globally
  • Diabetes Specialist Nurses (DSN) are a valuable addition to any diabetes clinic, Professor Andrew Boulton told Health24 

This year’s theme for World Diabetes Day, ‘Diabetes: nurses make the difference’ aims to raise awareness around empowering Diabetes Specialist Nurses (DSN), who are instrumental in diabetes management, especially in improving good patient care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The global prevalence of diabetes continues to escalate. Recent estimates from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) indicate that one in 11 (463 million) adults are currently living with the condition, and numbers are expected to reach over 570 million over the next decade. 

Empowering nurses through education

This is why it is imperative that there are enough nurses and allied health professionals to support people living with diabetes, says Professor Andrew Boulton, President of the IDF.

“We have to reverse this belief that nurses are some kind of insubordinate," Boulton told Health24. 

Empowering nurses through education is paramount, Boulton said, as the role of a DSN is multifold and they form one of the most important team members in the diabetes clinics.

“If people realise the value of the nurse, then they’ll invest in their education. In terms of governments, it’s a short expenditure for long-term savings.

“The key thing about diabetes management is that you need a team: the nurse, the podiatrist, the dietitian, etc. We need to invest in nurse training now and enable them to learn more about diabetes so that they can be part of this team.”

As part of this year’s World Diabetes Day campaign, nurses and healthcare professionals can freely access the IDF School of Diabetes course on the role of the diabetes educator. The course is certified by the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. Upon completion, learners earn one EACCME credit and receive a course certificate.

Diabetes and Covid-19

Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic earlier this year, most of the attention has shifted away from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, said Boulton.

“One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that it has turned attention more to infectious diseases.

“And it’s going to take a long time before we return to a ‘new normal’. I don’t think it’s going to be the same as before. 

“Governments need to realise that there may well be a second wave and that a successful vaccine roll-out is going to take a while, and so we really need to help people with diabetes through this phase.”

Boulton stressed the effect that a changed diet and exercise regime can have on people living with diabetes. 

“A large US study showed that walking for just 25 minutes per day can reduce your risk of getting diabetes. So those with diabetes should try and get out, because if you don’t it will lead to anxiety and depression, and that will worsen diabetes control,” Boulton advised. 

‘Masks protect you’

“I think the most important advice is to wear a mask, and to wear it properly. Masks protect you. There’s no doubt about this,” Boulton said about managing diabetes during the pandemic.

Studies have shown that while people with diabetes are not at greater risk of contracting Covid-19, they are at an increased risk of severe illness or death should they become infected. 

“We forget that viruses don’t like soap. So adhere to hand washing, mask-wearing, and physical distancing. You can still go out, but keep away from other people.

“It’s really about simple things like prevention,” Boulton said.

The theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day, observed on November 14, 2020 is ‘Diabetes: Nurses Make The Difference’. The campaign aims to raise awareness around the crucial role that nurses play in supporting people living with diabetes.

READ | OPINION | Why nurses are vital in the global fight against diabetes

READ | Covid-19 and diabetes: What the evidence says

READ | Nurse drives kidney transplant patients 800km through the night to get to life-saving surgeries

Image: Getty/Vitapix

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