Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists
Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists
August 18, 2018
3 min read

AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year champions person-centered language

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Jane K. Dickinson
Jane K. Dickinson

Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE, program director and faculty for the online-only master of science in diabetes education and management program at Teachers College Columbia University, has been named Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators at the organization’s annual meeting. The award recognizes a diabetes educator who has made a special contribution to the field through dedication, innovation and sensitivity in patient care.

Endocrine Today spoke with Dickinson about her early interest in diabetes education, diabetes language and person-centered care.

What was the defining moment that led you to your field?

Dickinson: When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I followed my nurse, Sue, around the pediatric “ward” and watched her take vital signs. I was fascinated by her work. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I realized I needed to become a nurse. I finished my bachelor’s degree in biology and then went on to earn my master’s degree in nursing as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist. My first position was in pediatric hematology and oncology, which I loved. The families and children/adolescents I worked with were amazing; unfortunately, the people I worked for were not, so I left and that’s when I switched to diabetes. My first position was clinical director for the nonprofit organization that ran the diabetes camp I attended as a child and worked at as a camp counselor and camp nurse for years. It was a wonderful way to start my journey in diabetes education.

What area of diabetes education most interests you now and why ?

Dickinson: I am most interested in the impact that our language has on people with diabetes. It is clear from discussing this topic with other diabetes professionals and many, many people living with diabetes, that language is a problem. I have conducted one study so far, and plan to continue my research this year. The language we use in health care is not always conducive to successful self-management of disease. It can be discouraging and self-defeating. Through my research, presentations, publications and collaborative work, I hope to learn more and spread the word about words.

What advice would you offer someone entering diabetes education today?

Dickinson: I would strongly encourage people entering diabetes education today to put the person first. Avoid labels like “diabetic” and “compliant/adherent” and “controlled/uncontrolled.” These are not helpful and likely harmful to people doing their best to manage diabetes. I would encourage them to put the patient’s needs before the provider’s agenda. Look at the whole person and not just the numbers. Use a strengths-based approach, where we congratulate people for what they’re doing (or doing well) rather than focus on what’s not working. Build on those strengths, and work toward solutions. Using these approaches can improve patient engagement, which is the whole point — helping people to participate wholly in their own care and giving them credit for their accomplishments.


What do you think will have the greatest influence on your field in the next 10 years ?

Dickinson: A person-centered approach will have the greatest influence on diabetes, in general, and diabetes education, in particular. There are so many efforts going on to improve medications, technology, and more. In addition, there are currently wonderful advances like patient reported outcomes, peer-support and efforts to look “beyond HbA1c” and to decrease, if not eradicate, hypoglycemia. All of these are critical components of making it about the person. Changing to person-first language (removing labels and negative messages) will seal the deal! While patient-centered work is important within clinical settings, person-centered approaches take it to the next step and recognize that people with diabetes are people first; there is so much more to them than simply diabetes. This is a new age for health care. People are more informed and often have higher expectations. We have an opportunity to meet them where they are, work with them to establish trusting and effective relationships, and guide them toward empowerment.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

I live in northwest Colorado, where I love to be outside. I enjoy hiking, walking and snowshoeing. When I need some brainless down time, I like to Netflix binge with my teenage son and my teenage daughter (different shows!). I also love to read books that have nothing to do with diabetes. – Jill Rollet