It’s no secret that diabetes is a rapidly growing concern in health care circles.

Today’s health care professionals, at all levels, see it in their patients and practices, and it’s demanding more attention. A member of Capella University’s department of nursing faculty and current American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) board member, Barbara Schreiner, PhD, RN, CDE, APRN, recently shared some insight into diabetes and how Capella is preparing health care professionals to help prevent and manage its growth.


Q. How prevalent is diabetes in America?

A. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 9.3% of Americans have a form of diabetes. That’s about 29 million people—four million more than only three years earlier. Even worse, about eight million people don’t even know they have it, so they’re not being treated for it. Right now, 1.7 million people are diagnosed with diabetes every year. That’s three people every minute of every day.

It’s not getting better, either. The Lancet recently reported that the average 20-year-old has a 40% chance of developing diabetes, and that number is higher for minority populations.


Q. What are some trends in diabetes, besides the staggering numbers?

A. With children, we used to see only Type 1 diabetes, but now more and more are getting Type 2, likely because of the obesity rates. Studies predict that one in three children born since the year 2000 will develop diabetes.

Interestingly, while rates of diagnosis are up, actual mortality has declined. People with diabetes are living an average of 2-3 years longer than they used to. This could be for a number of reasons: earlier diagnosis, newer medications, or because of educators.

Technologies and care approaches are also evolving, including work being done for Type 1 vaccines, an artificial pancreas, and new medications—these things can change the field considerably.


Q. Why is diabetes a problem in the public health arena?

A. Two reasons: first, personal impact—diabetes is recognized as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., but that may be an underestimation. Diabetes contributes to conditions like heart disease, so a patient who has had a heart attack may be considered a cardiac death, when the underlying cause was diabetes. Then there are the complications of diabetes, such as kidney damage and blindness.

The second reason is the financial burden. The cost is a huge hit on public health, reaching $245 billion in the U.S. alone. And we’re not the only country facing this crisis. It’s a global epidemic, with 382 million people diagnosed worldwide, a figure that could double within 20 years.


Q. Why is it important for nurses to be involved in diabetes prevention and management?

A. Nurses come in contact with and care for individuals with diabetes,no matter their specialty. Diabetes is the poster child for chronic disease care, and nurses are often chronic care providers. They have a different relationship with patients than physicians do.


Q. What can they do to educate their patients?

A. Nurses should focus on critical skills and knowledge. The principles of teaching and learning are important here, as patient education can require not only content but support. People learn about diabetes in different ways—from Google, asking neighbors. Nurses need to ask what people know and where they’ve learned it and make sure the patients are getting safe, accurate information.

They also need to understand behavior change. How does a patient actually implement what they’ve learned? The focus should be on practical education. You don’t have to know how a computer works to know how to use it—the same can be said for diabetes. People with diabetes need to know what to do, not necessarily all the details of how it works.


Q. How can diabetes educators and nurses work together?

A. A team approach works best. Most diabetes educators are or have been nurses, and they can be a resource to our colleagues and communicate with them. It’s important for both nurses and educators to share stories of successes and failures with each other—you learn from both. This leads to stronger collaboration.


Q. How are the programs at Capella preparing nurses and health professionals to lead in the prevention and management of diabetes?

A. Capella has a highly experienced and educated faculty who are using evidence- and practice-based contemporary resources and case studies, with courses developed and taught by doctoral prepared nurses with diabetes certification. We offer the only Master’s in Diabetes Nursing and have five specialty courses on different aspects of diabetes care. We also pay careful attention to national standards from the American Diabetes Association and the AADE.

We’ve got the best of both worlds: faculty members with years of experience, and adjunct faculty members who are still practicing clinicians. It’s a rapidly changing field, and we stay current.


Capella is a partner with the American Association of Diabetes Educators, providing a tuition discount for members and immediate family members.

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