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Susan B. Sloane, BS, Rph,CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a certified diabetes educator for 15 years.
She volunteers her efforts to help support both the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Sloane became an advocate when her oldest son, Jason, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was just 17 months old.
Ten years later, her youngest son, Marc, was diagnosed with diabetes as well.
Since that time, Susan has spent countless hours organizing fundraisers, meeting with legislators and working with companies to improve the lives of those affected by diabetes.
Susan is also a certified insulin pump trainer for many companies and is a member of many organizations.
Susan will write the new Diabetes Drug of the Month column for Diabetes Health, in which she will profile a particular drug, its indications for use, and side effects.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a diabetes educator?
The most rewarding aspect is seeing how profoundly you can affect a patient’s life. I recently suggested to a patient that an insulin pen would make his life a lot easier. He was complaining about having to carry his insulin and syringes everywhere and how frustrating that was. After speaking to his physician, who was unaware of the availability of the insulin pen, he switched over to the pen—and his life became much easier. Small changes represent a big deal to many patients with diabetes. I know, having raised two sons with diabetes.
What is your impression of diabetes care today?
Diabetes care has gotten much more sophisticated than it was when my son was diagnosed about 19 years ago. We have more “tools” in the toolbox, and we have leaned so much. We know that cholesterol and blood pressure are of paramount importance in patients with diabetes, and that blood glucose control needs to be tighter in both type 1 and type 2 patients to prevent or delay complications.
We still don’t have enough specialists in the field to help these patients— endocrinologists and CDEs are overbooked, and many offices remain understaffed.
What does it take to be a good diabetes educator?
Knowledge is important to being a good diabetes educator, but just as important as good information is caring and compassion. I suppose I feel a lot of what my patients feel, having walked in their shoes. Never underestimate the value of a smile or a hug.
What do you learn about diabetes from your patients with diabetes?
I learn something new every day from my patients. For some patients, the things I would never have anticipated bother them the most about living with diabetes. For example, one young man was living with incredible stress, which caused his blood glucose to be completely out of control, because he was afraid the kids at school would find out that he had diabetes. After getting him in touch with my son, he learned that sharing information with classmates about the disease would not affect his high school experience the way he thought it would.
When it comes to diabetes, what advantage do you have being both a CDE and RPh?
I really feel being a pharmacist puts me in a unique position to help my patients. I generally go over their drug profile upon an initial consultation, helping them to understand what their medication is for. We also talk about any possible side effects and interactions that they need to watch out for. Since many medications can affect blood glucose, my training gives me valuable knowledge.
With the onset of the type 2 epidemic, how well are today's pharmacists able to keep up with the many new drugs that have become available for type 2s?
There are certainly many more drugs in our arsenal for these patients. Keeping up with these drugs and all the new drugs flooding the market is a challenge for pharmacists. Reading and attending mandatory continuing education classes are the best way we keep current. Personally, I read literature just about every day.
Should diabetes education be a priority for any person thinking of becoming a pharmacist?
Pharmacists today, more than ever before, have a lot of career choice decisions. Now a pharmacy program lasts six years, and students emerge with a doctorate of pharmacy degree. The last year of pharmacy school is spent in an internship position. Some students follow a pharmacy specialty based on what they learn during this last year. There is oncology, pediatric pharmacy, community pharmacy, nursing home care and so on. Of course we get diabetes education in the mix, but as we know even with medical doctors, it is virtually impossible to learn everything about all disease states. I believe that the future of pharmacy will bring more professionals who have a specialty to address the needs of a given population.
What do you think this country will need to do to stem the tidal wave of obesity and type 2?
This country is finally starting to pay more attention to diabetes, with more government programs to help educate the population. The archaic Food Pyramid is finally being restructured, and public awareness is growing. Patients need more access to good health care, and many more diabetes education centers need to be set up. Patients should never have long waits to be seen. I’ve seen patients cancel appointments and let their health go because access to care has been so bad. We can’t let this continue. Knowledge is a powerful tool— we need to reach all the patients that need our help.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.