Tips for Clinicians Helping People with Diabetes

Managing diabetes can be an ongoing challenge for millions of people. During this Diabetes Awareness Month, we asked a few of our VMS BioMarketing Certified Diabetes Educators® to answer three questions about helping people with diabetes.

Q. What makes it so challenging for people when they first hear the diagnosis of diabetes?
KIMBRA: Receiving the diagnosis of diabetes is incredibly overwhelming. This life-changing diagnosis comes along with many needed behavior modifications, which aren’t so simple to implement. That coupled with the fact that there is so much misinformation out there makes it even more mind-boggling. Most people immediately start thinking of all the people in their life who have diabetes. Unfortunately, a lot of them didn’t manage their disease well. Therefore, they suffered from disheartening complications. It’s so important for them to know that they don’t have to experience that same fate.
MICHELLE: Every person reacts differently to a diagnosis of diabetes. What makes it so challenging are the emotions that can appear surrounding the diagnosis. Feelings of fear, anger, guilt, shame, sadness, and denial are common. When a person is feeling any – or all – of these emotions, it can be difficult for them to hear and process important information. It is essential for the Clinical Educator to assess, acknowledge, and validate the normalcy of those emotions. This may help the individual accept the difficult emotions while moving forward to successfully manage their diabetes.
ANGELEIA: Many times, patients immediately jump to the conclusion that they will suffer the complications from uncontrolled diabetes. The patient may feel defeated before they get the whole picture that they can control diabetes.

Q. What is important for the clinician to do to help someone with diabetes get started on the road to disease self-management?
KIMBRA: Assuring patients that it doesn’t take perfection to get their blood sugars in better control is one of the most important things a clinician can do for a patient. Small changes make such a big difference when it comes to managing diabetes. Helping patients identify specific goals and discovering what will motivate them to meet those goals is essential for patient success.
MICHELLE: Empowering the individual to see their diabetes from a larger perspective is important. I do this by reminding them there are over 30 million people in the US who have diabetes, and there are over 30 million ways of managing diabetes. What works best for you is figuring out what works best for you. No two people manage their diabetes exactly the same way. As Clinical Educators we guide the individual to honestly evaluate where they are with respect to key areas of diabetes management (e.g., food, movement, diabetes medications, blood glucose monitoring, stress management). This often clarifies for them what they need to do for healthier outcomes. For example, if the individual has a physical limitation which of the other key areas need to be bolstered to help successfully manage their diabetes? This is a wonderful way to empower the individual to begin taking an active role in managing their diabetes.
ANGELEIA: The very first thing is to help them see it is not their fault. One must build a trusting relationship and encourage small changes, even if it is just one thing they may want to change. Start with small changes and build momentum. Praise even small accomplishments.

Q. What’s one tip you could suggest for clinicians to motivate people with diabetes to stay on their prescribed therapy?
KIMBRA: I think it’s incredibly important that patients understand the “why” behind everything. If patients are told that they should or shouldn’t do something without knowing the importance of why they should or shouldn’t be doing it, they don’t always follow through because it doesn’t really mean anything to them. It’s just another directive they don’t understand, and they don’t know the repercussions that could occur if they don’t follow the specified guidelines.
MICHELLE: One tip I would suggest is helping patients understand WIIFM – “what’s in it for me.” Asking the patient why they think they were given the prescription medication is a great starting point. Helping the patient understand why the medication may be needed, at this moment in time, is crucial in empowering them to start and stay on therapy. Our role as Clinical Educators is to encourage people to live their best healthy life!
ANGELEIA: Motivational interviewing is a must. We must find out what is important to the patient. What barriers are there to achieving shared decision making? Both parties can develop a plan that can fit into the patient’s lifestyle.

VMS BioMarketing Clinical Educators have provided over a million education and support programs for people diagnosed with diabetes and other chronic conditions. To learn more about our education and support programs, please visit Additional resources are the American Association of Diabetes Educators ( and the American Diabetes Association (