Connecting with Patients: My Role as a Fit4D Diabetes Educator

Feeling the need to “re-charge” my diabetes educator batteries, I recently attended a continuing education program which provided several excellent sessions.   Joe Solowiejczyk, RN, MSW, CDE , “Coping and Thriving with Diabetes: It’s just not a numbers game”   presented some very practical suggestions in talking with patients and “connecting” with them. He offered that there are many roles of a diabetes educator, while all are important I believe acting as a facilitator best describes our jobs as Diabetes Health Coaches for Fit4D.

Feelings and Emotions

So far, in my experience with Fit4D, emotional issues, in some form or another, are present in almost all of our interactions. Whether a second insulin has been added to their diabetes management, they are newly diagnosed, have financial concerns, worry about long-term outcomes, fearful of disappointing their family or health care providers, or simply “I am doing everything right, and my blood sugars are still not where they need to be”. Probing with the patient to find out the source of their frustrations or negative feelings is essential to being able to provide the best possible information for the patient. Joe’s presentation offered some clues that patients may say can help identify some of these issues:

  • Fear of “giving in” is as a sign of defeat!
  • “If I fall apart, I’ll never pick myself up again”
  • “I have to stay strong for my kid(s), for my family”
  • Pretending is better than Feeling
  • “I’m smart & competent – I should be doing better”
  • Fear of acknowledging feelings of powerlessness

Conveying Empathy

As a Fit4D Coach, while I’m talking to the patient, they are my sole focus of attention. They do not have to be strong for me, I am here only for them and want to help them. While this may be somewhat easier to do face-to-face, learning to convey that empathy and compassion over the telephone is skillset in itself. Until the patient knows/feels/senses that empathy and compassion from me, they will not accept the suggestions I have to offer.

Healer NOT a Fixer

One of the most difficult aspects of being a Coach, is wanting to “fix” all the patient’s problems, quickly and effectively. Consciously, I know that this is impossible under any circumstance or in any job. I’ve started to see myself as a healer NOT fixer, and seek to understand that it’s not my responsibility to ‘fix” anyone, but to provide the tools and support to allow the patient to succeed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you connect with your patients!

Elise Swenson, RPh, MS, MAOM, CDE