Diabetes Educator: A Rewarding Career

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Certified Diabetes EducatorDiabetes is a serious disease and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 2,200 people are diagnosed with diabetes every day, according to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). More than 9 percent of Americans currently have diabetes, and with senior citizens that percentage climbs to 26 percent.

Insurance companies are very motivated to help people manage their disease because of the possible complications that can result, including heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and kidney disease. Diabetes educators can play a significant role in the lives of patients by helping them manage their diabetes, adopt a healthier lifestyle and stave off any further complications.

There is a growing body of research showing diabetes education helps lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol in patients who receive coaching. Studies also show that increased contact with diabetes educators is associated with lower hospitalization rates and reduced costs, according to the AADE.

“You see the positive changes they make and you see how you’ve had an impact to improve their care and help them live a longer life.”

What diabetes educators do

Diabetes educators explain how foods affect blood sugar, how to take medication correctly and how to learn new, healthy behaviors. Most people have a good idea of what they need to do to be healthier, but incorporating these behaviors into everyday life is the tricky part. Diabetes educators provide real-life guidance on how to manage the disease and design a specific plan for each person that includes the tools and support to help make the plan easy to follow.

Diabetes education is typically prescribed by a physician to help patients with diabetes or prediabetes understand and adjust to their diagnosis. Most often they work with accredited or recognized diabetes education programs that meet Medicare requirements.

Dawn Sherr, MS, RD, CDE, is a certified diabetes educator and practice manager at AADE. She says most physicians don’t have the time to sufficiently explain how to manage diabetes, and that’s where a diabetes educator steps in.

“A diabetes educator not only explains how food affects blood sugar but also helps with the emotional aspects of the disease so that people can lead longer, healthier lives and not get complications,” Sherr says.

Diabetes educator salary

The median annual salary for diabetes educators is $70,345, according to Salary.com. The range is from $56,823 to $85,208. The cities with the highest salaries for diabetes educators are:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Springfield, Massachusetts

Source: Salary.com

In addition to financial compensation, there are also emotional rewards to the job. Sherr says she often forms a connection with a client, and it’s satisfying to see results. “You see the positive changes they make and you see how you’ve had an impact to improve their care and help them live a longer life,” she says.

Diabetes educator jobs

Educators may work in a hospital, ambulatory care center, doctor’s office, government agency or as a self-employed professional. As the need for educators expands, more opportunities will be available in nontraditional settings, such as retail clinics, medical weight management clinics, workplace wellness programs, community health centers, home health agencies and long-term care facilities.

The sky’s the limit for the future of diabetes education. The AADE predicts diabetes educators will take on roles as program managers, coordinators and care managers. Other roles may include designing user interfaces for patient web portals and remote monitoring technologies or contributing in the area of performance and quality management in patient behavior change.

Map of Projected Need for Diabetes Educators

Across the country, the demand for diabetes educators is expected to increase from 3 to 33 percent by the year 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Florida and Utah are the states with the highest demand for diabetes educators, followed by Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas, New Hampshire and Alabama.

How to become a diabetes educator

The AADE analyzed job postings for diabetes educators and found most employers requested credentials such as a CDE (certified diabetes educator) in the job requirements. Employers are also requiring at minimum a master’s degree.

Certification is available to registered nurses and other health care professionals who have a minimum of 1,000 hours of diabetes self-management experience. The Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NSBDE) has a list of the complete requirements for certification.

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