The Registered Nurse on your Health Care Team

Nancy Hoffart, PhD, RN
Founding Dean & Professor
School of Nursing, LAU

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus you know how challenging it can be to follow the needed treatment. Registered nurses (RNs) are members of the health care team who can help you in managing your care.

Professional RNs work in all health care settings. Usually we think of RNs working in hospitals, which is the first place a person with diabetes may receive care from a nurse. RNs also work in clinics, dispensaries, schools, and NGOs that focus on diabetes. In these settings they work with other health team members to ensure that individuals at risk for diabetes are identified and taught how to change their lifestyle to prevent or slow the onset of diabetes. Nurses also do awareness campaigns. The aim of the entire team, nurses included, is to ensure that care is complete and coordinated. Specific areas where nurses can be particularly helpful are described below.

Individuals with diabetes must perform a number of daily tasks to manage their diabetes. RNs help them learn these tasks. To monitor your blood glucose level a nurse will teach you how to do the finger prick, then to read and interpret the test result. The nurse will help you learn how to adjust your medication based on the blood sugar level, and will also guide you in learning how to self-administer insulin shots. If instead you take oral hypoglycemic medications, the nurse will help you learn how and when to take the pills, helping you to set reminders for taking medications on time and in a safe manner.

An aspect of diabetes care that does not receive enough attention is foot care. Foot problems are a frequent complication of diabetes. RNs will teach you and your family members how to perform daily foot checks, what problems to watch for, and the importance of wearing shoes that fit properly. Staying physically active is another important part of diabetes care. Nurses can guide you in deciding what type of exercise or physical activity will help you keep fit and in turn improve your health. Nurses work with and reinforce the diet information you receive from the dietitian. In all of the above areas nurses teach you new information about diabetes, answer your questions, and provide encouragement and support. By assisting you to perform these activities the nurse is helping prevent both short-term and long-term complications.

Individuals with diabetes can become stressed and tired because the daily demands for self-care do not stop. Remember that nurses are available to listen, support and work with you to find ways to make the self-care activities more manageable. Nurses want you to continue to enjoy the things in life that mean the most to you. They are an important part of your health care team and are ready to help you stay healthy.

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