Today is the last day of National Diabetes Awareness Month!
Intern Perspective – For the past 5 years I have worked at a children’s summer camp, Tennessee Camp for Diabetic Children (TCDC). It is a two-week camp created for children living with type 1 diabetes to have a place to be themselves while learning more about managing and living comfortably with diabetes. When I would tell people about working at TCDC, most assumed that the children I work with have type 2 diabetes.
Let’s break away from the thought that dietitians work solely with patients with type 2 diabetes. I would like to dive deeper and explain our equally important role with persons living with type 1 diabetes.
While working at TCDC, I realized that only half of these children have met with a dietitian and of those, even fewer scheduled beyond the initial consult. This got me thinking – what are we doing as dietitians to encourage regular visits and why aren’t we continuing to meet with this population? When I asked campers and staff for their thoughts, many responded and felt dietitians focused too much on following the standard education methods and materials similarly given to type 2 patients; they felt their consultation was too impersonal. This is an insight that I think needs to be addressed.
Building Trust and Support
I think it’s possible and even quite easy to get caught in the day-to-day habits of nutrition counseling. Sometimes we may unintentionally fall into a scripted conversation with our patients rather than talking to them organically. Although the standard learning material is important and the foundation of their diabetes management, it’s imperative to establish a relationship with the patient. Building trust and support with type 1 patients is an opportunity to secure strong, lifelong relationships.
From the start, a certain level of trust and knowledge must be created to initiate these ties. Those with type 1 diabetes will always be dealing with their disease. If we want to ensure that they will continue to care for themselves, immediately building that relationship is crucial.
If we strive to be relatable and approachable, our patients will likely be more open with us. We need to actively listen and be open to mistakes to help our patients address, learn from and correct them. Keep these points in mind during your counseling sessions:
- Our initial purpose for meeting clients with type 1 diabetes is to help them to better manage their disease with proper diet.
- Remember that everyone is different – counseling methods should be tailored towards the individual.
- If we want to see them beyond the first consult, we need to listen to their needs and work beyond the standard education materials.
- Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong effort – create a strong, lasting relationship with our patients to give them reason to come back.