People Newly Diagnosed With Diabetes Should Be Taught by Certified Diabetes Educators

05/30/2012 11:43 am ET | Updated Jul 30, 2012

Let's say I go to the bank to withdraw $100. The teller asks me if I want five $20 bills, three $20 bills and four $10 bills, or a $50, a $20, two $10 and two $5 bills?

I always politely tell them it doesn't matter, because five $20 bills is the same as ten $10 bills, they both add up to $100.

Some companies are not concerned as to what time you arrive at work or what time you leave, just as long as you get your 40 hours in. The end result is the same.

When I was much younger, I remember hearing my dad say, "Six of one or a half-dozen of the other." I heard that so many times, but never could figure out what it meant. Eventually I got it but I wasn't so young anymore.

Closer to home, if your blood sugar is low and you are in the midst of a hypoglycemic episode, I doubt you care if you are treated with grape juice, candy corn, or glucose tablets. For most people experiencing hypoglycemia, it is so miserable they don't care how it's treated or what its treated with, just get the numbers up as quickly as possible.

In so many instances in life, the end result is going to be the same no matter how you got there, as I have tried to illustrate in the previous examples. But then there are cases where the end result is totally dependent on how you got there.

Imagine traveling by car from Florida to California with Albert Einstein as your companion, or maybe Mother Teresa. Think of the conversation, the questions, the great stories.

Contrast that with the same trip, but with a different companion, a regular guy like me. I can tell you the little that I know about Albert Einstein or Mother Teresa, but there's no way I can tell you what they can tell you.

This would definitely not be a situation where my dad could say that taking a trip to California in their company vs. riding with me was "six of one or a half-dozen of the other," because it's not.

By the same token, learning about diabetes from a certified diabetes educator is not at all the same as spending time with a diabetes coach.

The amount of diabetes knowledge that each possess could be worlds apart. This is not at all meant as a critical remark or to put diabetes coaches down in any way, as I do feel there is a valuable role for them, however, certified diabetes educators must pass a certifying exam every five years, indicating a high level of competency. By the time most educators achieve the CDE credential, they have accumulated a significant level of knowledge and considerable experience in the field of diabetes.

Diabetes coaches are frequently well-meaning volunteers with little to no diabetes experience who have a desire to help others with diabetes. The diabetes education that prepares them to be a diabetes coach may range from several hours to two days. I see the role of a diabetes coach as a motivator to help keep the person with diabetes on track with their exercise and meal plan. This is of significant importance.

Health care associations recommend that someone newly diagnosed with diabetes receive a minimum of 10 hours of diabetes education within the first year of being diagnosed. This is considered comprehensive education. Anything less than this, in my opinion, is shortchanging the patient and not preparing them optimally to properly manage their disease.

No, this is definitely not a case where being taught by a certified diabetes educator is six of one or a half-dozen of the other to being taught by a diabetes coach.

Diabetes is far too serious to mess around with. Get education immediately after diagnosis and get it from a certified diabetes educator.

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