Rachel Head, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator (CDE) willfully volunteered to participate in the Fakebetes Challenge. She was paired with Sarah Knotts, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was 4 years old. During the Fakebetes Challenge Rachel gave saline injections, tested her glucose, and counted her carbohydrates. In addition, Sarah would text her glucose levels or symptoms that Rachel would need to respond to. A few days ago you read Sarah’s take on the Fakebetes Challenge, here is Rachel’s.
Tell me a little about yourself and your work as a CDE.
I’ve been a diabetes educator for about 5 years, spending time in both adult/pediatric and Type 1/Type 2. My niece was diagnosed with T1D soon after I started in the field. For that reason, it’s been a very personal experience working in diabetes, and I’ve found that I’ve gravitated more and more to pediatric T1D as a result. I am currently the Diabetes Program Manager at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and I also serve as the Chair of the state association for Diabetes Educators.
Why did you decide to do the fakebetes challenge?
I felt like I needed to. It is the absolute least I can do as an educator on a disease state that I don’t have. I knew that “walking a mile” would bring a stronger point of connection with future patients I may encounter, and for that matter, other diabetes educators.
Have you done anything similar to fakebetes before?
I’ve had many pokes and worn many devices, but never to the extent that I had to use critical thinking skills in day to day experiences for a whole week.
Tell me about something you learned from the experience?
I had a very unique experience with my fakebetes. For part of the challenge, I was in the middle of a conference on diabetes. People didn’t stop and stare when I laid a syringe and vial on the table. Different glucose gels and tabs were kindly suggested for my series of low blood sugars. I could talk out a difficult carb count with someone else, both of us looking at our apps and deciding what to try. Yet, for all the amazing support I received, keeping a schedule out of a suitcase was ridiculously hard. I missed meals, was embarrassingly undisciplined with my long-acting saline, and struggled with bringing up a low on a 5 minute restroom break between meetings. I found myself dreaming of sneaking off with a vendor’s demo pump to make it all a little easier…but I had to be content with good enough.
And then, I went back home, where it’s just me and my kiddo. It was much easier to keep my regimen, but I did not get any hands on support. I had a low of 61 occur around the same time I would have left to pick my son up from preschool. Then it dropped to 48. In the world of fakebetes, I “treated” it on my way, but in real life, I may not have made it there in 30 minutes, or ever. That thought haunted me for the rest of my challenge. It wasn’t just me affected by this condition, and had I not been so magically cured, I would still be haunted by it.
Will this experience change the way you practice as a CDE? If so, how?
Without a doubt. This week reminded me of when I became a new mom, and all of the challenges that suddenly appeared, even though they had actually been there all along. Yes, one could read a parenting book, but it’s not the same as experiencing it firsthand. Other parents just get it, because they have lived it. So, even for someone who’s made a point of being empathetic and engaged with my patients, friends and family members, I realize I’ve severely underestimated what it takes to manage diabetes every day. Textbook knowledge alone left me feeling vulnerable my first few days with fakebetes. This experience has validated the importance of a diabetes support system and the godsend convenience of diabetes technology, and having done this challenge, I will be much more in tune with my patients needs in these areas. I also think I’m going to start asking new diabetes educators here at PCH to take the Fakebetes Challenge, I think it would be an excellent orientation for anyone on our team.
How was fakebetes different or similar to the diabetes education training you have received in the past?
For this experience, I challenged myself to use syringe and vial as opposed to the latest and greatest d-tech which I am always happy to demo. It was much more difficult than I anticipated. The schedule was hard to maintain, I fumbled with the mechanics, and I found myself altering my behaviors to avoid injections, which I then resented. It was eye-opening to spend a week doing the “starter regimen”.
Thank you Rachel and Sarah for participating in the Fakebetes HCP Challenge! If you are a healthcare provider or person living with diabetes and would like to take the Fakebetes Challenge, please contact me.