Living with diabetes, but not perhaps as you would expect

On World Diabetes Day, Diabetes Specialist Nurse Andrea Lake explains how she lives with diabetes despite not having the condition and her passion for improving treatment and care for people with diabetes across the country.

I have been a diabetes specialist nurse for nine years. One of the themes for World Diabetes Day has been living with diabetes. I wanted to explore this, but perhaps not as you would expect.

I myself do not have diabetes. I will never truly understand the challenges people with diabetes face. I am privileged to get an insight through my direct contact with people with diabetes and social media platforms, such as twitter, but alas; I still will never truly know.

I do however (in my opinion), still live with diabetes. I wake up five days a week knowing my main aim for the day is to support people with diabetes or improve the care they receive. On the other two days, although not my main aim, I am thinking of work not yet completed, worrying if I have given the right advice and daydreaming about how we can make things better.

As a young student nurse I shadowed the local diabetes specialist nurse team, seeing first-hand the challenges of running outpatient clinics to time while trying to ensure the needs of everyone attending were met. Watching the nurses supporting people with diabetes during their admission, and the seemingly never-ending list of people wanting support, didn’t look easy. Despite the challenges, the reward of offering that support was clear to see, and that was the day I chose to live with diabetes.

Today, developing technologies such as continuous insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring, flash glucose monitoring and looping are an exciting area of diabetes innovation. Such technologies fill me with excitement, and fear. Excitement to think about how these may make meaningful positive changes to the lives of people with diabetes. Fear about how I will keep up with these ever-changing technologies; What If I miss something and as a result our patients miss out?

During clinic appointments, my intention is to create a positive experience, an opportunity for someone living with diabetes to tell me what they need and support them to achieve their goals. The reality is that there are more people with diabetes than staff and desperately trying to balance the needs of the person in front of me against the things I am supposed to cover (all in 10 minutes!). Under the pressures of ‘the system’, at times, I know I am failing. So I give the time needed, and hope I am forgiven for running late.

My family do not need to know how to treat a hypo or test my glucose levels; but they do. Why? Because I live with diabetes, so they do too. I talk to my son about diabetes, so I know he won’t grow up with the all too common misconceptions. I bore my husband with hours of talk about diabetes innovations and service development too, because it’s my passion.

The wellbeing of people living with diabetes is paramount, but perhaps as health care professionals, we need to also think about our wellbeing, and the way we share our lives with diabetes?

Despite the challenges of the system, I would not change the excitement, joy and opportunities of my job for the world. I love the team I work with and am grateful every day to have an amazing job, beautiful family and supportive employers!!

Do I have diabetes? No, but on World Diabetes Day and every other day I take pride in choosing to share my life with diabetes and the people living with it – and will continue to do the best I can.

Andrea Lake

Andrea qualified as a nurse in 2008 after working as a healthcare assistant from the age of 18. Andrea’s first role as a staff nurse was on a high dependency unit. She has worked within a split clinical and research role in the speciality of diabetes at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust for nine years. Clinically, Andrea is a senior Diabetes Specialist Nurse primarily working within the inpatient setting. She also has experience with insulin pump therapy, DAFNE and all aspects of inpatient and outpatient adult diabetes services. Within Andrea’s research role, she is the lead diabetes research nurse and supports commercial and academic research, as required, through all stages of the process from development of an idea through to dissemination.

Andrea has an MSc in clinical research and several publications. She is also the vice chair of the Diabetes UK clinical study group 4 in acute care. Andrea’s personal areas of interest are inpatient diabetes management and how research can improve this, translating research into clinical practice and clinical academic careers for nurses, midwives and allied health care professionals.

Andrea loves to use twitter as platform to share good practice and experience and believe it is important to listen and learn from each other. You can follow her at @AndreaLake1984.

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