This was the title of an ADA session led by a panel of people with diabetes, including familiar faces from the Diabetes Online Community - it was fantastic!
Empathy, compassion, and language ALL matter in life and life with diabetes.
There are right and wrong ways for healthcare professionals to discuss diabetes and diabetes complications.
The right way starts with empathy, compassion, and an understanding that blame and shame re: diabetes complications doesn’t work - and has the ability to make things worse for the person living with diabetes - both mentally and physically.
Chaired by Korey Hood, PhD. the PWD panel included Kerri Sparling, Chris Aldred, Ina Mendoza, and Matthew Heywood, MPH.
From the time we are diagnosed, developing diabetes complications is used as a threat for people with diabetes to fly right.
Panel member Kerri Sparling stated: Complications were dangled with this carrot of fear if my family didn’t take good care of me. Complications are often positioned as the person with diabetes NOT taking care of themselves.
That’s not the case.
Providers need to be coached and learn to be positive - empathy makes all the difference.
Healthcare Pros must stop pointing fingers re: diabetes complications.
Genetics play a BIG part in the development of diabetes complications - providers need to remember that.
To paraphrase Chris Aldred: We did the best we could with the diabetes tools we were given at the time we were diagnosed, and up until today.
Healthcare professionals must talk to and with a person about their complication diagnosis, not the computer, nurse or attending.
Talking to and about the person as a whole - not their complication - is key.
People living with diabetes need advice that can be easily integrated into their lives.
Diabetes success stories are great, but we also need to hear about those living with complications that are not often discussed - those recently diagnosed with depression, retinopathy, kidney issues, and other D complications.
How are they coping, what treatments and resources are they finding helpful?
Panel member and T2 Ina Mendoza reminded the room that PTSD plays a big part in diabetes. Ina was diagnosed at the age of 35 with T2 - the exact age as her mother passed due to complications from Type 2.
How could that not have major ramifications on her psychological state and approach to self-care?
Positive reinforcement is needed and incredibly appreciated.
Matthew Heywood told the room: If my HCP tells me good job for checking my bg - it’s not about the number. It’s that I’m checking.
Kerri reminded those of us with diabetes sitting in the session, that the healthcare system isn’t the enemy and that we as patients need to have empathy for doctors as well.
Doctors need to have empathy and compassion encouraged in medical school, not drummed out of them.
Speaking of words…
Language Matters - Improving Communications in Diabetes Care - a session, Chaired by Jane K. Kadohiro, DrPH, APRN, CDE, FAADE and including amazing Healthcare Pros!
Let’s Get Started With The Key Takeaways!
Jane K. Dickinson RN PhD, CDE opened by informing the room that labels lead to biases which directly impact the way we interact with people.
Paraphrasing Jane: Carefully chosen language can have a positive impact, poor language a negative. What you say and how you say it matters - and has staying power.
Joe Solowiejczyk RN, MSW, CDE, T1D told the crowd:
It’s not about fixing - it’s more about healing - having our experiences validated in a non-judgmental way. Same goes for your posture - as in head and heart - your message should be from your head but informed by your heart.
Joe told those in attendance: It’s our job to sell diabetes care so that our patients have courage, determination and energy for their own health care.
SideBar: I was the third patient that Joe Solo treated.
I was eight. I didn’t know he was my Pediatric CDE/Nurse/Therapist /whatever - I just knew that Joe was my very first friend with diabetes.
He'd allow me to share without judgement and always encouraged, Joe changed my world for the better - and I will be forever grateful.
Positive acknowledgement and validation works wonders.
It’s not always about the numbers.
Dr. Kevin Joiner PhD, APRN, ANP-BC, CDE mentioned that approaches to reduce stigma in healthcare means training every person who interacts with patients - requiring a long term commitment by stakeholders in order to dismantle diabetes stigma across the board.
Diabetes stigma is prevalent across cultures.
Diabetes, especially T2 is stigmatized in the healthcare system.
Dr. Jane Speight MSc, PhD, CPsychol, FBPsS reminded the room that one of the many consequences of diabetes stigma is the person with diabetes not attending self-management education programs.
When it comes to strategies to improve communication between both patient and provider, I’ll paraphrase professor Jane Speight.
It’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
Evidence-based strategies that improve communication means Healthcare Professionals must embrace “waiting” and learn to be comfortable with silence.
Why? Interruptions by HCPs listening to a person’s health care agenda has a median interruption time of 11 seconds.
Most clinicians communicate well, but underestimate their abilities in this area. They lack confidence and don't think enough about the power of their words.
Want better communication in healthcare?
Get your T-L-C on: Trust. Listening. Communication.
Showing empathy and respect increases honesty, medication taking and self-care.
Provider Burnout & Diabetes Burnout are incredibly similar - both are emotionally exhausting, make the person feel de-personalized and decreases the person’s sense of accomplishment.
My Thoughts On Both Sessions
People with diabetes and healthcare professionals need to work in tandem and as a team - empathy and compassion are needed on both sides.
Open discussions and encouragement need to be increased. Diabetes blaming and shaming needs to cease.
Behavioral Health specialists must have a seat at the table when it comes to diabetes care and treatment. People with diabetes need access to Behavioral Health services/specialists without fear of labels or costs, in order to develop positive and empowering coping mechanisms in our lives and our lives with diabetes - including complications.
Words have weight and words are powerful.
People with diabetes remember every kind word and phrase our HCPs have uttered to us - and every unkind phrase.
Respect is paramount.
Lastly, we are in this together - healthcare professionals and people with diabetes working as a unified team empowers us all!