Susan B. Sloane, BS, Rph,CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a certified diabetes educator for 15 years.
She volunteers her efforts to help supportboth the American Diabetes Association andthe Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.Sloane became an advocate when her oldestson, Jason, was diagnosed with diabetes whenhe was just 17 months old.
Ten years later, her youngest son, Marc, wasdiagnosed with diabetes as well.
Since that time, Susan has spent countlesshours organizing fundraisers, meeting withlegislators and working with companiesto improve the lives of those affected bydiabetes.
Susan is also a certified insulin pump trainerfor many companies andis a member of manyorganizations.
Susan will write the newDiabetes Drug of the Monthcolumn for Diabetes Health,in which she will profile aparticular drug, its indicationsfor use, and side effects.
What is the most rewardingaspect of being a diabeteseducator?
The most rewarding aspectis seeing how profoundlyyou can affect a patient’slife. I recently suggested toa patient that an insulin penwould make his life a loteasier. He was complaining about having tocarry his insulin and syringes everywhere andhow frustrating that was. After speaking to hisphysician, who was unaware of the availabilityof the insulin pen, he switched over to thepen—and his life became much easier. Smallchanges represent a big deal to many patientswith diabetes. I know, having raised two sonswith diabetes.
What is your impression of diabetes caretoday?
Diabetes care has gotten much moresophisticated than it was when my son wasdiagnosed about 19 years ago. We have more“tools” in the toolbox, and we have leanedso much. We know that cholesterol andblood pressure are of paramount importancein patients with diabetes, and that bloodglucose control needs to be tighter in bothtype 1 and type 2 patients to prevent or delaycomplications.
We still don’t have enoughspecialists in the field tohelp these patients—endocrinologists and CDEs areoverbooked, and many officesremain understaffed.
What does it take to be agood diabetes educator?
Knowledge is importantto being a good diabeteseducator, but just asimportant as goodinformation is caring andcompassion. I suppose I feela lot of what my patients feel,having walked in their shoes.Never underestimate thevalue of a smile or a hug.
What do you learn about diabetes from yourpatients with diabetes?
I learn something new every day from mypatients. For some patients, the things I wouldnever have anticipated bother them the mostabout living with diabetes. For example,one young man was living with incrediblestress, which caused his blood glucose to becompletely out of control, because he wasafraid the kids at school would find out that hehad diabetes. After getting him in touch withmy son, he learned that sharing informationwith classmates about the disease would notaffect his high school experience the way hethought it would.
When it comes to diabetes, what advantagedo you have being both a CDE and RPh?
I really feel being a pharmacist puts mein a unique position to help my patients. Igenerally go over their drug profile uponan initial consultation, helping them tounderstand what their medication is for.We also talk about any possible side effectsand interactions that they need to watchout for. Since many medications can affectblood glucose, my training gives me valuableknowledge.
With the onset of the type 2 epidemic, howwell are today's pharmacists able to keep upwith the many new drugs that have becomeavailable for type 2s?
There are certainly many more drugs in ourarsenal for these patients. Keeping up withthese drugs and all the new drugs floodingthe market is a challenge for pharmacists.Reading and attending mandatory continuingeducation classes are the best way we keepcurrent. Personally, I read literature just aboutevery day.
Should diabetes education be a priorityfor any person thinking of becoming apharmacist?
Pharmacists today, more than ever before,have a lot of career choice decisions. Nowa pharmacy program lasts six years, andstudents emerge with a doctorate ofpharmacy degree. The last year of pharmacyschool is spent in an internship position.Some students follow a pharmacy specialtybased on what they learn during this lastyear. There is oncology, pediatric pharmacy,community pharmacy, nursing home care andso on. Of course we get diabetes educationin the mix, but as we know even with medicaldoctors, it is virtually impossible to learneverything about all disease states. I believethat the future of pharmacy will bring moreprofessionals who have a specialty to addressthe needs of a given population.
What do you think this country will need todo to stem the tidal wave of obesity and type2?
This country is finally starting to pay moreattention to diabetes, with more governmentprograms to help educate the population.The archaic Food Pyramid is finally beingrestructured, and public awareness is growing.Patients need more access to good health care,and many more diabetes education centersneed to be set up. Patients should never havelong waits to be seen. I’ve seen patients cancelappointments and let their health go becauseaccess to care has been so bad. We can’t letthis continue. Knowledge is a powerful tool—we need to reach all the patients that need ourhelp.