A Nurse’s Role in Diabetic Treatment


A nurse’s role in diabetic treatment

By Alana Luna, Contributor

At little over 9 percent of the American population has diabetes, making it likely that nurses will encounter diabetic patients on a frequent if not weekly basis. Some patients will be admitted already diagnosed, but others will present with unrelated problems and showcase symptoms of previously undetected diabetes complications.

Part of a nurse’s role in diabetic treatment is to spot signs of the disease as soon as possible and facilitate ongoing care once a diagnosis is made. To help that process along, here a few things all nurses should know about recognizing and treating diabetes.

A Nurses Role in Diabetic Treatment

The term “diabetes” is often used as a catch-all to describe what is actually a group of several different blood glucose disorders. In fact, there are three main types of diabetes:


  1. Type 1 Diabetes: When you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system goes haywire, attacking the insulin-making cells in your pancreas, destroying your body’s ability to produce insulin and thus making the patient entirely dependent on insulin injections. Though type 1 is typically diagnosed in young patients, it can crop up at any age.
  2. Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is not a complete lack of naturally produced insulin but rather a deficiency or inefficiency. Anyone at any age can develop type 2 diabetes, but it typically occurs in older patients and may be controlled with insulin, dietary changes, exercise or a combination of the above.
  3. Gestational Diabetes: Insulin issues linked to pregnancy fall under the umbrella of gestational diabetes. Although gestational diabetes generally resolves after the patient gives birth, it may put the patient at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.


Other types of diabetes, such as monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, are less rare but still important to understand, especially if you’re specializing in a related field.

Patients with diabetes are prone to complications. Part of a nurse’s role in diabetic treatment is learning to recognize possible diabetic complications to relay to the rest of the patient’s medical team and help create a more detailed care plan. 

RELATED: 5 Ways to Improve Your Nursing Care Plans in 2019

Keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms which could indicate a type 1 or type 2 diabetic needs immediate attention:


  1. Hypoglycemia
  2. Increased hunger and thirst
  3. Frequent urination
  4. Unexplained weight loss
  5. Urine with detectable levels of ketones
  6. Fatigue
  7. Sores that are slow to or don’t heal
  8. Blurred vision
  9. Irritability
  10. Frequent infections
  11. Neuropathy
  12. Kidney disease
  13. High blood pressure
  14. Gastroparesis
  15. Skin issues


New technology is making diabetic treatment less stressful. The days of constant finger pricks and logging numbers on pen and paper are almost over. The responsibility diabetic patients face in tracking blood glucose and monitoring diet and medications can be daunting, but apps like Glucose Buddy, MySugr and Diabetes Connect put documentation tools, medical records and even dosage conversations in the palm of your patients’ hands.

Other inventions like a bionic pancreas (still in the research phase), nasal spray delivery systems for glucose, smart contact lenses and hybrid insulin pumps could turn many of the hassles diabetic patients face into minor inconveniences.

Self-care is vital. Nurses are trusted more than doctors, with 82 percent of poll respondents describing nurses as having “high” or “very high” ethics. However, only 65 percent of respondents could say the same about doctors, which gives nurses an unparalleled opportunity to introduce patients to healthy habits that could help control or even reverse the symptoms of diabetes.

Experts say patients with type 2 diabetes can help manage their health by maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet low in fatty foods and committing to at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Sharing outside resources such as the American Diabetes Association may also give patients hope and access to ongoing support.

Treating Diabetes is Complicated

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has put together a Complete Nurse’s Guide to Diabetes Care and a smaller, spiral-bound handbook to help health practitioners prepare for testing and look up important details on the job. The ADA also offers a patient and practitioner resources with educational materials such as booklets about diabetes and oral health and tips for managing gestational diabetes as well as clinical practice recommendations and journals detailing key advances in protocols and relevant technology. 

The AACE Diabetes Resource Center speaks directly to nurses with an outline of responsibilities for nurses involved in inpatient diabetes care.

Nurses obviously can’t cure diabetes, but they can make it easier for patients to understand and cope with a complicated disease. The first step — for everyone involved — is education. Learn what you can about diabetes today and you’ll help your patients for years to come.

WANT to treat diabetic patients around the country? Search our jobs for top travel, per diem and perm positions.

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