Like many of our nurses, Jennifer has been at South Shore Hospital for a long time, but her latest role addresses something the health care field may not have foreseen 20 years ago – the rise of diabetes.
As a certified diabetes educator, Jennifer primarily meets with outpatients to help them understand and manage their disease. She points to an alarming statistic – the number of people with Type 2 diabetes has increased by 50 percent in the last ten years. Not surprisingly, this population accounts for more than half of Jennifer’s cases. She estimates that the other cases tend to be women who are pregnant with gestational diabetes. And while gestational diabetes typically resolves once the baby is born, there is evidence that these women are more inclined to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Education is paramount for people with diabetes or those who have “pre-diabetes,” that is, those who show signs of developing it in the future. Medications and management tools won’t do any good if a person doesn’t know how to use them.
At the crux of Jennifer’s job is the ability to find out what motivates each patient so she can guide them toward managing the condition. She listens closely to what people tell her during “motivational interviews.” What is the patient interested in focusing on? What are they willing to do? Do they understand the consequences of not managing the disease? Does the patient have close friends or relatives who have/had the disease? What does having diabetes mean to the patient and family? Lastly, Jennifer says it’s very important to determine if a person is ready to learn.
In addition to focusing on lifestyle factors that the patient is willing to address, she teaches them how to advocate for themselves, what questions they should be asking their physicians, and how to seek out community resources. Jennifer makes certain to tell her patients how proud she is that they’ve come to learn about their disease and prevent disabling complications.
“Patients know that we truly care,” says Jennifer, indicating high scores on patient satisfaction surveys. “I think that’s a general reflection of employees at South Shore Hospital, though. That’s the advantage of a community hospital. When you’re part of the community, you have an extra reason to care so much.”
Learn more about Careers at South Shore Hospital
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