As more and more individuals are diagnosed with diabetes and pre-diabetes, there is an even greater need for professionals with expertise in lifestyle management to help them prevent or control their diabetes. Exercise physiologists have an opportunity to join the healthcare team by expanding their knowledge and scope of practice as certified diabetes educators.
An annual American Diabetes Association campaign raises awareness about the disease and encourages people with diabetes to make healthy changes. The message must be getting through because people with diabetes are living longer and healthier than ever before. Each November this annual American Diabetes Association campaign raises awareness about the disease and encourages people with diabetes to make healthy changes. The message must be getting through because people with diabetes are living longer and healthier than ever before.
This does not mean that managing diabetes is getting easier. It still takes hard work for each person to predict how medication, food, exercise and stress will affect their blood glucose readings. It requires ongoing education, communication and support from diabetes educators (exercise physiologists, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, doctors, etc.) to adapt and successfully manage diabetes over the lifespan.
If you are an exercise physiologist reading this, you understand how physical fitness impacts health. The intent of this article is to highlight your expertise and your value as a member of the diabetes care team. If you are not an exercise physiologist, you may be one of the many health care professionals who struggle to provide exercise guidance due to a lack of time or training. For you, this article is a reminder that exercise physiologists are best suited to integrate the exercise prescription into a patient’s diabetes care plan.
People with diabetes interact with exercise physiologists in fitness, wellness or clinical settings. If you are in a general fitness or wellness setting, your role is to review, reinforce, and encourage the general principles of a safe and effective exercise prescription. For people with diabetes, you may be reviewing blood glucose changes with exercise. Or you may be reinforcing the benefits of exercise or adapting the components of the exercise prescription based on the persons current fitness or health considerations.
If you are in a clinical exercise setting, you have people with diabetes pursuing care for heart disease, obesity, cancer, stroke, COPD, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. You may be identifying gaps in diabetes knowledge or diabetes related skills in your assessment. Or including diabetes interventions or making diabetes referrals as part of the patients care plan. You may even be suggesting changes to the diabetes care plan as patients meet, or do not meet, established goals.
While it is important for people with diabetes to attend an accredited diabetes education program, many diabetes educators work with this population in non-diabetes settings. Many of those have become a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE®). This credential identifies the health care professional as one who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in diabetes prevention, pre-diabetes, and diabetes management.
To be eligible to sit for the CDE® exam, exercise physiologists need to have a Masters’ Degree in a health-related area and have accrued 2000 hours of professional practice experience OR hold an active American College of Sports Medicine clinical certification and have accrued 1000 hours of professional practice experience. These hours are accrued from the direct provision of diabetes education provided in your fitness, wellness or clinical setting. These hours can also be accrued as a participant in the Mentorship Program. Visit the NCBDE website to learn more about the CDE process.