In an attempt to connect individuals with type 1 diabetes, a colleague and I developed a social networking event in Salt Lake City, the Diabetes Mixer. During the development of the Diabetes Mixer, I learned about the diabetes online community (DOC,) tudiabetes.org in particular. I was amazed. The DOC is full of information, support, humor, art, and community. How was it that I have been a diabetes specialty nurse practitioner for the past 5 years and had not known about the DOC?
After seeing the DOC, and the wonderful things people with diabetes gleaned from it, I realized that I need to be cognizant about knowing when I’m not enough as a nurse practitioner (NP) specializing in diabetes care. I’m not enough when I can’t provide the day to day social support for my patient. I’m not enough when I cannot provide true empathy. And I’m not enough when I’m not aware of some of the tricks related to diabetes care based on personal experience. While I believe I take excellent care of my patients, providing sympathy, reading up on the latest and greatest, understanding carb counting by actually doing it, and personally test driving the latest technology isn’t always enough, my patients deserve more. This is why I have started to recommend the DOC in my practice. At times, I have even asked my patients to do homework on the DOC, using specific search terms to address their needs and concerns.
While some might cringe at the thought of the use of social media in health care, I have personally seen how helpful it can be. I have had patients tell me how interacting with others on the DOC have helped them in one way or another. For some patients, the DOC has helped them decide which insulin pump brand they wanted to order or troubleshoot their continuous glucose monitoring system. For others, the DOC has helped individuals stay motivated in managing diabetes resulting in more frequent glucose checks, diet and exercise. Most of all, I believe the DOC has helped patients to feel understood. Belonging to a community where you can relate to others is essential, whether you have diabetes or not.
Am I okay knowing that sometimes I just won’t be enough for my patients? Sure! Because I know the DOC exists and will embrace my patients wholeheartedly, providing what I cannot. As long as my patients are able to address their diabetes-related needs and have optimal health, the percentage mix of me versus the DOC is inconsequential (of course I still want to be involved). Ultimately, a happy healthy patient results in a happy NP!
People with Diabetes: Do you currently belong to a DOC? How has the DOC helped you?
Health Care Providers: Do you recognize when you aren’t enough for your patients? If so, what are you doing about it?