The Road Runner at AADE

Meghan Carter, Simmons College ‘17

Do you ever find yourself feeling like the Roadrunner? Only instead of escaping Wile E. Coyote’s elaborate schemes and foolish antics, you find yourself running from the trap of your doctor’s words?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana with the College Diabetes Network. As a newly graduated nurse aspiring to become a Certified Diabetes Educator (or CDE), I was able to meet experienced CDEs and attend sessions on diabetes healthcare. A common theme I noticed throughout this experience was the use of words and the impact it can have on a diabetic person with diabetes.

While attending a session on the power of words, Jane Dickenson, CDE, and a person with diabetes, discussed how healthcare professionals typically label their patients. They call them diabetics instead of a person with diabetes. She calls these “Ick Words”. By calling a patient a person with diabetes, it allows the provider to put them as a person first and not the disease.

This was just the first of many examples throughout the weekend.

Adam Brown, editor for diaTribe who is also suffering from living with diabetes talked about the idea of “testing” our A1C or “testing” our blood sugar. When a healthcare provider, or even my mom, uses the word “test”, it implies that I am graded on the result. Is it a “good” number or a “bad” number? The ability to measure our blood sugar should be used as a tool. He compared monitoring blood sugars to a speedometer. If the speedometer says you are going to too fast, you use that information to make a decision to slow down. There’s no feelings of judgement in this decision. The same principle can be applied to my blood sugars. Instead of the word “test”, providers and caretakers should use words like “monitor” or “check “to remove any negative  connotations

Some other words from this weekend included:

Suffer: I don’t suffer from diabetes. I happen to have diabetes but I do not suffer from it. In fact, I am living a great life with diabetes.

Control: This word choice suggests that I am out of control. It is a judgement word and it reminds us of what we’re not doing well and what’s not happening, rather than what is happening and what is going well.

Noncompliant/Nonadherent: This is another judgement word. Not only are healthcare providers going to have their own preconceived perceptions about me when they hear this word, but it is in no way going to motivate me to change my habits either.

I learned so much from this conference from attending sessions, speaking passionately on behalf of the CDN, and making new friends who have the same career aspirations as me. As a nurse and a person with diabetes, my biggest takeaway was the impact of word choice on our patients. With these simple changes in word choice, it removes the guilt, blame and shame. If healthcare professionals and other providers use empowering language, this will instill hope and impart confidence, and with these tools, patients (like me) are more likely to think positively about their diabetes care. If our providers can simply  become more aware of their word choice, change will begin to happen.

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