Nurse Types / Diabetes Nurse
Becoming a diabetes nurse is an excellent career choice for nursing professionals who want to help their patients live healthier lives. People with diabetes must practice a strict lifestyle management protocol to keep their diabetes in check. Nurses who specialize in diabetes play a significant role in that process.
If you know you want to become a nurse but you’re still exploring your options, you may want to consider this choice. Learning more about what diabetes nurses do can assist you in deciding. In this article you’ll learn:
- What is a diabetes nurse?
- What do diabetes nurses do?
- Where do diabetes nurses work?
- What are closely related fields?
- How do you become a diabetes nurse in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of diabetes nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for diabetes nurses?
What is a diabetes nurse?
About 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, a chronic health condition that interferes with how your body turns food into energy. People with the condition either can’t produce insulin or don’t produce enough, so they require medication and lifestyle changes to stay healthy.
- Type 1 diabetes causes the body to attack itself by mistake, which keeps it from making insulin. Medical professionals believe it’s caused by an autoimmune disorder.
- Type 2 diabetes keeps your body from using the insulin it produces properly, so you struggle to maintain blood sugar levels.
- Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who did not previously have diabetes. It usually goes away once the baby is born. However, having gestational diabetes puts your baby at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Diabetes nurses can help with all three types of diabetes or choose to specialize only in one.
Qualities of a successful diabetes nurse
If you’re going to work in the nursing profession, compassion for others is a must-have quality. Other abilities you’ll need if you decide to specialize in diabetes care include:
- Analyzing patient information to make appropriate adjustments in care, including insulin dosage and dietary guidelines
- Communicating clearly with other members of the healthcare management team, patients, and patient families
- Discussing sensitive information with patients and their families
Expert advice from nurses like you
What do diabetes nurses do?
Diabetic nurses have many responsibilities. Your primary role as a diabetic nurse involves educating patients and their families about how to best control symptoms through a combination of exercise, medication, and nutrition. You’ll also help your patients monitor their blood sugar and minimize nerve damage, which can be common in diabetic patients.
A day in the life of a diabetes nurse
There’s never a dull moment when you’re a diabetes nurse. You can go from consulting with a patient’s healthcare team about the best options for a treatment plan to educating a patient and their family about how to manage symptoms.
You can count on one thing if you become a diabetes nurse: no two days are the same. So, if variety is the spice of your life, diabetes nursing may be the perfect career choice.
Common conditions treated by diabetes nurses
Diabetes nurses treat all three types of diabetes (Type I, Type II, and Gestational). Some of the other common conditions you may encounter include:
- Nerve damage
- Wounds that won’t heal
Where do diabetes nurses work?
Diabetes nurses can work in a variety of settings. Some of the most common are:
- Doctors’ offices
- Outpatient clinics
- In-home care
Traveling diabetic nurses are more likely to perform in-home care than other diabetic nursing professionals.
Working with endocrinologists and other endocrine system specialists is another option for diabetes nurses since diabetes affects the endocrine system. Diabetes nurses who earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can teach or become diabetes researchers.
What are closely related fields?
If you enjoy being a diabetes nurse, there are some other closely related fields you may want to explore. Some of the possibilities include:
- Diabetes management nurses help patients diagnosed with Type I or Type II diabetes manage their conditions. They educate on the best lifestyle changes and medications to control their diabetes.
- Endocrinology nurses specialize in the care of patients with endocrine system disorders like diabetes and thyroid issues. They can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including ambulatory centers and hospitals.
How do you become a diabetes nurse in 3 steps?
The nursing profession is highly specialized. Once you earn your Registered Nurse (RN) licensure, you have several options for career paths. Becoming a diabetes nurse is one of them. Follow these 3 steps if you want to help people living with diabetes.
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
The first step toward specializing in diabetes care is to become a registered nurse (RN). You can qualify for RN licensure by completing nursing school. Some nursing professionals choose to become LPNs and then pursuing their RN licensure. Others choose a bachelor’s degree program, which can take 4 years to complete. Either way allows you to become an RN.
Earn a BSN degree
Many healthcare employers, especially hospitals, are requiring RNs to have a minimum of a BSN degree. For this reason and others, many nursing professionals opt for their BSN before becoming a licensed RN. If you’re an LPN already working in nursing, you can fast-track your BSN with an RN to BSN program. If you have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, you can check out the Accelerated BSN program.
Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
Once you earn your BSN, the final step to becoming a licensed RN is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. About 78% of test-takers pass on their initial try. You can repeat the exam if you’re not so lucky on your first attempt. However, you must wait 45 days between testing dates.
Step 2 – Accumulate experience
Some diabetes nurses choose this nursing specialty because they have diabetes themselves. Others find the condition fascinating and want to make a positive impact on patient outcomes. Regardless of why you choose this nursing path, you’ll need to gain some valuable experience on the job before you can advance further in your career.
Helpful skills and experience
Working with diabetic patients in any setting can be the most effective way to build your skills after earning your RN licensure. You can grow your knowledge base quickly by seeking out a nurse mentor already working in the specialty to guide you on the job.
Experienced diabetes nurses have:
- Analytical skills to help them make appropriate adjustments to patient care
- Communication skills to clearly state any treatment plans or adjustments to patients and their families
- Interpersonal skills for discussing patient needs with other healthcare professionals and health insurance companies
- Leadership skills to direct other nurses and medical staff to ensure your patients receive the best care possible
Changing specialties to a diabetes nurse
If you’re already working as an RN and want to change your specialty to diabetes care, you may need to acquire new skills or knowledge. Let’s say you want to switch from a pediatric RN position to a pediatric endocrinology nurse.
You’ll want to increase your knowledge base in preparation by taking continuing education classes focused on endocrinology. Certification isn’t needed for this specialty. However, you have the option of becoming a certified diabetes instructor through the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES). The certification might come in handy when communicating with children and their families.
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
As previously mentioned, there are no specific certifications for diabetes nurses. You can complete the requirements for becoming a certified diabetes instructor through the ADCES. Applicants must earn 6-10 continuing education credits in different disciplines to qualify.
What are additional requirements of diabetes nurses?
Like all RNs, diabetes nurses must maintain their RN licensure. The requirements for renewing your license depend on your state of practice. When you receive your initial license, you receive information about the renewal process from the board of nursing.
Completing continuing education credits during the lead-up period to renewal is a common requirement in most states. You’ll need a broad knowledge base to be an effective diabetes nurse.
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What are the salary and career outlooks for diabetes nurses?
RNs are in demand in all specialties. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030. The national average salary for diabetes nurses is $93,036 annually. Some RNs in this specialty can earn upwards of $200,000 in some of the highest-paying cities in the U.S.
The best places to work as a diabetes nurse include:
- Santa Clara, CA – $114,732
- San Francisco, CA – $111,037
- Fremont, CA – $108,339
- Marysville, WA – $106,820
- Jackson, WY – $103,456
You can check out the average nurse by state before you accept a diabetes nurse position to ensure you’ll be well compensated for your skills and experience.
[ Looking for more information? Get instant salary estimates and personalized matches with high-paying nursing jobs. ]
Finding a healthcare employer that respects work-life balance can improve your job satisfaction. Diabetes nurses, like other RNs, have demanding jobs. Choosing a work environment that supports you and your patients is a must if you don’t want to burn out on the job.
Deciding to become a diabetes nurse is a major life decision. You can seek advice from other nurses in this specialty before deciding if it’s right for you. Choosing this specialty opens the doors to future advancement in nursing, including becoming a nurse educator.
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- Diabetes and Endocrine Function. endocrine.org. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- Diabetes Nurse Salary. ziprecruiter.com. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- Endocrinology Nursing pathway. endocrinology.org. Accessed July 2, 2022.
- MSN Career Spotlight: Diabetes Management Nurse. onlinenursing.duq.edu. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- NCLEX The Pathway to Practice. ncsbn.org. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- Registered Nurses. bls.gov. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- The Facts, Stats, and Impacts of Diabetes. cdc.gov. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- What is Diabetes? cdc.gov. Accessed June 21, 2022.
- Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya