Any medical professional will tell you there are hundreds of different paths we can choose in healthcare. Yet, a select group of people, like myself, dedicated time and energy into becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator or CDE. We decided helping people with diabetes was the most important thing we could do with our career.
What is a CDE?
CDEs are medical professionals, such as pharmacists, nurses, dietitians, doctors, or social workers who specialize in working with people with diabetes. You may also hear a CDE referred to as a diabetes educator or a diabetes education and care specialist.
To become a CDE, it takes a minimum of two years, plus 1000 hours, of diabetes education experience.
Once a medical professional (the majority of us are nurses and dietitians) reaches that minimum standard, he or she takes the CDE exam. The exam covers a wide range of diabetes topics, from pregnancy to pediatrics, and includes hospital care, behavior change, nutrition, exercise safety, and more. It’s no cake walk!
In short, CDEs are diabetes specialists in the healthcare field. We work with people living with all types of diabetes and can often assist in special diabetes populations, like children and pregnant women. Most of us are well-versed in diabetes technologies (pumps and continuous glucose monitors), medications, and research.
But how does that help you? And why is working with a CDE better than using the nutritionist at your gym or the nurse at your primary care provider’s (PCP) office?
Here Are 10 Good Reasons:
- We see the person before we see the diabetes.
- We’ve dedicated ourselves to a higher standard of training and knowledge through obtaining our CDE.
- We have the knowledge and tools to help you understand available treatment options so you can make informed decisions about your diabetes health.
- We have the skills to help you make behavior changes that will improve your health.
- We understand that diabetes, its diagnosis, workload, and ever-changing state can be overwhelming, exhausting, and bring out many different emotions.
- We know no one with diabetes wants poor health, but almost everyone has barriers that make it hard to care for their diabetes at times.
- We understand diabetes impacts every aspect of your life.
- Our ultimate goal is to decrease your burden while helping you improve or maintain your diabetes health.
- We look at all aspects of your world, and work as your partner, to help reduce costs, eliminate barriers, and adapt diabetes self-care based on your everyday needs.
- We understand that your diabetes, and how it impacts your life, is different than everyone else’s diabetes.
In a nutshell, we strive to make diabetes fit into your world, instead of making your world fit into diabetes.
How Do I Find a CDE?
Most of us work within a Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT) program, and using your DSMT insurance benefits is the best way to find us.
DSMT requires a referral from your primary care provider (PCP). Ask your PCP’s office to send a DSMT referral to your local diabetes education program. Look for programs that are nationally recognized by the American Association of Diabetes Educators or the American Diabetes Association. Search here to find one in your area:
What Does It Cost to See a CDE?
Again, most often, you’ll meet us within a DSMT program, and DSMT is an insurance benefit. Cost and coverage depends on your insurance. Most cover DSMT. DSMT is free for people with Medicare.
The number of hours (how often or long you can receive DSMT) generally ranges from 2 hours a year up to 10 hours, or as medically necessary. Usually your DSMT insurance benefits renew every calendar year. This means you’ll have the opportunity to meet with a CDE on a regular basis, which is important. Your body, your diabetes, your life stressors and needs, and your diabetes treatment options change over time. Meaning you’ll need adjustments to your diabetes care plan; something a CDE can help you navigate.
Call your insurance company and ask what coverage is available and what the cost will be. Also, check the location of your local DSMT program. If it is hospital-based (meaning the program is through a local hospital) the cost of DSMT may go towards your deductible. If the program is clinic-based, DSMT cost may only be a copay.
A Certified Diabetes Educator is an invaluable resource. We are the one person in the medical field who has the time and tools to help you turn your diabetes fears, questions, struggles and barriers into confidence, understanding, hope and action. We may be a diabetes expert in the medical field, but, YOU are the expert of your own life and TOGETHER we make a pretty awesome team!
Megan Muñoz is the host of Type2andYou with Meg, the only podcast by a Certified Diabetes Educator dedicated to people living with type 2 diabetes. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing, along with certifications in medical surgical nursing and diabetes education. Megan works with a wide range of people living with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes in both the hospital and clinic setting. You can find her on Instagram @Type2andYou_by_a_cde, Facebook @Type2andYou with Meg or on her site, Type2andYou.org.
Megan’s Philosophy as a CDE:
I believe when you are a CDE, the most important thing to remember is you’re helping someone on their journey with diabetes, not yours. They’ve given you the privilege to come into their story, even for a brief moment of time. Be respectful and gracious with this invitation. Your job is to guide, support, challenge, empower, inform, and advocate so they have the tools and skills to be successful WITHOUT you.
When are we ever going to allow fellow diabetics to become CDE’s without all of the required hours? Currently “life experience” counts for nothing in the certification process, but we know SO much more than some educators out there, yet we are constantly shut out of helping our fellow diabetics if we don’t have enough of the “education hours” in hospital or clinical settings. I’ve been an RN BSN for 6 years now, but a Type 1 diabetic for 50. My knowledge of this disease, especially on a personal, emotional level is something that can’t be taught and certainly not gained by more hours on the hospital floor.
Hi Anne, We don’t disagree that perhaps there should be a certification called “Living with Diabetes Educator” as you are right about the value of life experience!
I am currently about to start RN BSN school but I had worked in DM education for more than 15 years. Do I qualify to become Diabetes Educator or I can apply until I graduate from BSN?
In general, you have to have 2 years experience in your discipline (nurse, dietitian, social worker, etc), plus 1000 hours of diabetes education, plus 15 hours of CEUs, before you can sit for CDE exam. The following link should list the specifics and would be a good place to start:
How did you work in the DM education for so long. May I ask with which company?
My son has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes since 2017, when he was 8 years old. I am also a Medical Technologist and have experience in testing for diabetes. I found it surprising that although as a medical professional in allied health that I do not qualify for a CDE program. This is now my passion and what I have learned not only as a technologist but as a parent who manages my son’s diabetes that I cannot help others on their journey. It just seems so unfair. I believe many parents as well can say the same thing. I definitely know more that my son’s school nurse who just recently was certified as a DE.
We understand your frustration but hope you are able to find a way to pursue your passion and share your knowledge with others. What a great resource you would be (and already are) with your personal experience from your job and home life. 🙂
Hi, Kim dod you ever become a CDE or DE. If so how did you achieve this with a career of Allied Heath.
There are ways to help people with diabetes (PWD) without becoming certified as as Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (the CDE designation changed this year).
Check out this link to investigate becoming a Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP): https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/diabetes/prevent/lifestylecoach.html
Check with your local Diabetes Education Center to see if they have a “Diabetes Champion” program — or want to start one– where you can use your experiences to inspire and educate others like you.
My type 1 daughter has been T1D for 15 years and is a junior in high school. She loves her AP Psychology class and wants to go into mental health/psychology undergrad in college. She wants to use her love for understanding human behavior and her understanding of T1D to help others in a clinical setting. Good mental health and mindset coaching is essential to lifelong care with T1D. It’s the foundation! The best way she feels to use her passion is by pursuing psychology and then gaining the prerequisites to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) specializing in diabetes with a CDE verification as well. If she knows she does not want to be a nurse or dietitian, or get an undergrad in social work, but instead pursue psychology/human behavior in undergrad, according to CDE guidelines if not a healthcare worker she must have a masters in social work to qualify. Does a masters in psychology not qualify? Or what about a psychology undergrad and become a licensed professional counselor (LPC)—this is certainly on par with having a masters degree in social work. She is trying to use the CDE requirements and work backwards to determine her major in college- how to ultimately study psychology but one day get her CDE. Please help with any advice on being a professional counselor (LPC) and then becoming a CDE. Is this possible without a masters in social work? LPC requires thousands of hours in the clinical setting!
You may want to reach out to the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists directly:
125 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
Beverly Thomassian also does coaching for diabetes educators, and she may also be of help: