Diabetes is a disease that affects one in every three people, which means it’s a given that some of the people who live with diabetes are also nurses. As any diabetic can tell you, managing the disease is a full time job-there are lots of variables to keep track of at all hours of the day-and for nurses, who spend their days tracking other people’s health, the added stress can be overwhelming at times. Imagine trying to keep track of your own blood sugar levels and remember how many carbs you ate in the last hour all while hurrying from patient to patient checking their vital signs, administering medicine, and updating charts. At times, it might feel like trying to do complex math while someone shouts random numbers behind you. But if you’re a nurse with diabetes, or you’re interested in beginning a nursing career but are worried about how your diabetes might get in the way, take heart. You aren’t alone, and many nurses have already blazed the trail.
Nurse Berit Bagely, for example, recounts her struggles after learning she was a diabetic. An emergency room nurse, Bagely was floored when she received her diagnosis, and described herself as “overwhelmed, sad, angry, scared, lost.” But while she struggled at first-keeping her insulin shots regular during unpredictable night shifts, avoiding the urge to over-test, etc-she not only mastered her condition, she let it motivate her into creating new career goals. She embraced her struggles, and eventually took a job in diabetes education-helping others like her cope with the diagnosis and life changes that follow.
Nurse Debra Johnson also struggled when she was first diagnosed at age 54 with adult-onset diabetes. A 34-year health care veteran, Nurse Johnson knew all too well the potential future ahead of her, and vowed to make a change. Dropping the fast-food and snack-heavy diet that she (like many nurses) relied on between shifts, Johnson was not only able to reverse her adult onset diabetes to a less threatening pre-diabetes, but she dropped 22 pounds in the process.
“It was a wake-up call,” she remembers. “I was scared to death. I knew I had to do something immediately to take control of my life or the diabetes was going to take control of me.”
Through education, organization, and lifestyle changes, both Johnson and Bagely were able to not only cope with diabetes, they came out stronger in the end. And while life as a nurse can be unpredictable, and there are plenty of distractions on every shift, planning ahead as much as possible can be key for keeping the disease from getting the better of you.
There’s also some positive progress being made in the fight against diabetes. A new medication is being tested as we speak, one that may be able to completely reverse type-II diabetes. By inhibiting a single enzyme, the medication restores the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Human trials are still a ways away, but the results so far are promising.
Diabetes is an obstacle, but it’s far from insurmountable… even for those of us in scrubs. But for those dealing with diabetes already in their personal lives, and who may be having a tough day of it, here are ten of Nurse Bagely’s notes to herself during her journey. You may just find one that speaks to you.
- Even the best nurses can’t carb count.
- Getting tubing caught on a door handle hurts.
- Don’t be defined by your A1C! (your long term blood sugar test results)
- Not feeling sorry for myself and continuing to learn how to take care of myself is a MUST.
- Occasionally my blood sugar will be higher than the ER patient I’m treating for hyperglycemia.
- Sensors still drive me insane.
- Occasional “deleting” of my OWN basal rates will and can happen while helping patients over the phone.
- When training on a Medtronic Minimed pump, NEVER adjust a temp basal pattern without a double-check.
- There are people who check blood sugar more often than me.
- Not all dieticians, nurse educators or providers work or think the same.
If you’d like more information on beginning a healthcare career, Unitek College wants to help! Contact us here for more information on our nursing and medical assistant programs.