Diabetes Nursing

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    Diabetes is rampant in the US and gaining strength every year. This opens the door for nurses to care for and educate these patients. There are many avenues for nurses to obtain the needed education to provide this care. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) have even more opportunities related to diabetes care.

    Diabetes Nursing

    Diabetes is growing by leaps and bounds. Nurses are on the forefront of diabetic care. "The estimated overall prevalence of diabetes in the US is between 5.8% and 12.9% of our adult population. However, because of the associated microvascular and macrovascular disease, diabetes accounts for almost 14 percent of United States health care expenditures, at least one-half of which are related to complications such as myocardial infarction, stroke, end-stage renal disease, retinopathy, and foot ulcer" (UpToDate, 2013).

    Job Outlook and Job Environment

    As diabetes spreads to more and more of our population, opportunities will exist for specially trained nurses and advanced practice nurses to manage diabetes care. Some positions that might be available:

    Staff nurse on a medical surgical unit as many patients will have diabetes as a co-morbid condition

    Staff nurse on a renal floor as the two top reasons in the US for renal failure are diabetes and hypertension

    Staff nurse in transplant clinics. Again, these nurses deal with many diabetics that have either end stage renal disease and need a kidney or a kidney/pancreas transplant.

    Staff nurses can also be employed by nephrology practices providing education to patients who are experiencing complications from diabetes

    Advanced practice nurse (APN) in a nephrology practice, internal medicine clinic, diabetic care clinic or hospital. The APN role might be as a consultant or as a primary care provider of diabetic patients.

    APNs can also work in transplant, providing pre and post-transplant care as well as monitoring these patients long term.


    There will be an increasing need for advanced practice nurses who have the education and experience to provide education as well as day to day management of diabetes.


    Some qualities needed for diabetes nurses:
    • Knowledge of diabetes that will allow the nurse to provide education for a wide range of patients from children thru adults including their family members. This knowledge can be obtained from formal education at a college or university and verified by a certification exam. See resources below.
    • Compassion for the complications that can often occur with diabetes. Even well controlled diabetics are at a higher risk for retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy and a host of other co-morbid conditions. If patients experience these complications, it might be necessary for the nurse to work closely with the patient to collaborate a more effective plan in order to minimize the effects of these complications.
    • Patience with patients who might be resistant to education or who do not wish to be compliant
    • Knowledge of community resources. Having diabetes can be expensive especially if long-acting insulin, insulin pen or insulin pumps are used. Insurance coverage may or may not cover these expenses.


    The American Association of Diabetes Educator is one of the certifying authorities for diabetic educators. This organization provides education for Certified Diabetic Educators (CDE) as well as patient. They also advocate and lobby for legislation related to diabetic care.

    Books/resources for CDE interview? - When you are thinking about or studying for the CDE, here are some resources:

    Looking at Master's programs in US w/ diabetes specialty- any thoughts? - Resources for advanced practice education

    UpToDate is a great resource for nurses. However, there is a fee for the service. Many hospitals and individual medical practices purchase group rates.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 11, '15
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    TraumaRUs is an APN with over 21 years of experience. She is currently employed in a large nephrology practice.

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