Diabetes Nurse

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Many diabetic nurse specialists enter the field because they have diabetes or someone they are close to has this disease. There are 25.8 million diabetics in the U.S today. Statistics show that 7 million people are not even aware they have diabetes. The role of a diabetes nurse is to serve a steadily growing population and empower them to manage their disease.

Diabetes Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

There are several roles for a diabetes nurse. A nurse practitioner who specializes in diabetes will diagnose, treat and adjust medication and diets for patients. A clinical nurse specialist who specializes in diabetes will monitor patients, educate them on diet choices and activity levels suitable for their condition. The diabetes nurse or Nurse practitioner will also monitor these patients for complications which are common with diabetes including circulatory disorders, heart complications, adrenal gland involvement, skin disorders and eye disease.


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  • The diabetes nurse practitioner may be allied with a community health organization, work from a clinic or have an established practice in collaboration with a physician.
  • The clinical diabetes nurse will often work with community health services, hospitals, or home health agencies monitoring and serving diabetic patients.
  • The diabetes nurse educator is normally found in a hospital or clinic setting and will help patients adjust their lifestyle and dietary habits to best control their disease.

How to Become a Diabetes Nurse

The diabetes nurse educator is a limited position in smaller communities with hospitals having only a single diabetes nurse educator. This professional is usually a Registered Nurse and certified as a diabetes nurse educator through the American Diabetes Association.

Due to cost cutting measures in health care, the amount of time a newly diagnosed patient with diabetes spends in the hospital learning to manage their condition is far shorter. Patients may leave the hospital with only the most basic understanding of their condition.

This has led to community services where the diabetes nurse practitioner or diabetes clinical nurse is the primary health care supplier as well as education for the patient. Home health agencies and community health resources are more commonly employing diabetes nurse practitioners and clinical nurses with a diabetes specialty to serve these patients. Individuals interested in a career as a diabetes nurse will normally need an advanced practice degree in nursing with a focus upon diabetes patients.


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Some clinical nurses choose to specialize further, treating individuals with developmental disabilities with diabetes or pediatric diabetes patients. Internship programs working with the target population help the diabetes nurse gain practical experience in preparation for certification.

Diabetes Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

A diabetes nurse, nurse practitioner, or diabetes nurse educator will normally require at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) and certification as an educator or nurse specialist for diabetes. What follows are some of the school program options to become a Diabetes Nurse.

  • Successfully complete a four year nursing program which awards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
  • Apply to the state licensing agency to take the state board. A diabetes nurse must hold an RN license.
  • Enter an advanced degree program either for nurse practitioners or for clinical nursing. These programs usually offer specialties so that the successful graduate will have training and practical experience in their preferred specialty. The advanced practice programs for nursing award an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) although some programs can be pursued through the doctoral level.  Most nurse practitioner programs as well as Clinical Nursing programs also include a clinical side with several hundred hours of working with patients in a hospital or community setting.
  • Certification is available through the American Nurse Credentialing Center for Clinical Nurses or Nurse Practitioners who specialize in diabetes. The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) certifies diabetes nurses as qualified educators through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE), but it does not offer certification for diabetes nurses working in the field in a non-educational capacity. Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) work with patients to help them manage their diabetes. Persons eligible to sit for the exam come from many fields including dietary, psychology, pharmacy and social work among others. Applicants must have two years experience practicing in the field that they wish to become certified. They must also possess 1,000 hours experience as a diabetes educator and pass an examination administered by the NCBDE. Certification is not required, but it is highly sought after by employers.

Diabetes Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The diabetes nurse practitioner and the clinical nurse who specializes in diabetes jobs are predicted to see a greater in average growth over the next 8 years. HMOs as well as community health services and hospitals are employing more of these specialized nurses. Diabetes nurse educators are predicted to see a fair growth over the next 8 years although the new jobs created for educators are more limited than for Registered Nurses or nurse practitioners.

The diabetes nurse practitioner – specialty care has an average salary in the US of around $86,000. The average diabetes nurse who is a clinical nurse specialist makes around $80,000 a year. The diabetes nurse is a growing specialty field and as the number of Americans reaching retirement age grows the need for this special nursing service will only increase.

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