By: Michael Oreskovich, Communications Specialist at Runnymede Healthcare Centre
By 2020, a staggering one in 10 Canadians is expected to have diabetes. Such high prevalence comes at a great personal cost; if the disease isn't well-managed, it causes organ damage, blindness and even limb loss. It's crucial to find innovative solutions for managing diabetes in ways that are effective for patients and sustainable for the healthcare system.
One way Runnymede Healthcare Centre leverages the unique expertise of its clinical registered dietitians (RDs) to address this challenge. As certified diabetes educators (CDEs), they are ideally positioned to coordinate the interprofessional team's management of the disease, resulting in improved quality of life for patients, less reliance on medication and shorter hospital stays.
Diabetes is a disorder where the body doesn't produce insulin or can't use the insulin it makes, causing an accumulation of sugar in the blood. "One-third of our patients are diabetic, so controlling the disease is a high priority," said Sharleen Ahmed, Runnymede's Vice President of Strategy, Quality and Clinical Programs. "Patient-centred therapeutic diets can help maintain stable blood sugar levels, which, in turn, helps patients benefit as much as possible from rehabilitation."
The scope of practice of clinical RDs goes a step beyond at Runnymede. The team earned CDE designations, which greatly broadens their knowledge of diabetes care. This expertise enables Runnymede's clinical RDs to prepare and recommend diabetes treatment plans that 'connect the dots' across disciplines. Ultimately the plans are finalized by the hospital's physicians, but the clinical RDs' unique perspectives place a strong emphasis on proper nutrition and enhance collaboration within the interprofessional team.
To illustrate this, Janna Kwong, professional practice leader for Runnymede's clinical RDs, points to a recent patient. "He had been managing his diabetes with daily insulin injections, but after examining his dietary habits, we collaborated with the interprofessional team and found ways to adjust what he ate so he could take an oral medication instead." This change had a profound impact on the patient's experience. "Afterward, he'd always stop me to say how happy he was about not having to take daily insulin injections anymore."
The CDE designation also enhances the clinical RDs' role as educators for patients and their families. By teaching self-management techniques, the team helps patients gain control of their disease. "We increase patients' awareness of how food choices impact diabetes," said Kwong. "We give them the education and tools they need so they're able to continue with good dietary habits."
Harnessing clinical RDs' specialized skills as CDEs is a leading-edge solution Runnymede uses for managing diabetes. "The team's approach enhances quality of life and safety, and contributes to patients achieving their rehabilitation goals sooner so they can resume their lives," concludes Ahmed. "The education our clinical RDs provide to patients ensure healthy dietary habits are continued after discharge, so they can safely manage the disease on their own and be as independent as possible."