January 23, 2020
4 min read

A bold move from ‘diabetes educator’ to ‘diabetes care and education specialist’

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Diabetes self-management education and support, or DSMES, the service offered by diabetes educators, improves HbA1c, reduces health system expenditures and decreases the risks for developing the acute and chronic complications associated with diabetes. Yet insurance companies report that most individuals with diabetes do not receive these services. Although this can be attributed to many factors, some of it directly relates to our very name, diabetes educator.

For many, the name can create the negative perception that they will be instructed or taught how to do certain activities and change certain behaviors to improve their self-management. Or it signals to other health care professionals that our value is restricted to education when we do so much more.

Perfectly positioned to make a difference

On any given day, we work with individuals with prediabetes, diabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. We help them understand how to use the newest technologies that can help decrease the burden of self-care. Currently, these devices include insulin pens, blood glucose meters, continuous glucose monitors and downloadable apps. And we don’t stop there; we also demonstrate how to utilize data from these devices to learn what works and what doesn’t, ultimately creating a customized management plan.

Kellie Antinori-Lent

Skilled at translating research and clinical practice recommendations, we make the complex easy to understand. We assess for mental, behavioral and emotional well-being, identifying challenges and referring to the appropriate providers. We help navigate health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and find programs and opportunities that set up for success at any economic level. We serve as integrators for the care team, referring to and collaborating with endocrinologists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists and dentists, to name a few. Often, we are the first line of contact to help someone with diabetes live a full life that is not defined by their condition. It is the relationship we develop with our clients and the support we provide that drives their success.

But how can we possibly convey all of this when our title restricts us to the box of educator? This led the American Association of Diabetes Educators — now known as the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, or ADCES — on an extensive research process in early 2019 that ended in the creation of a new title for the specialty: diabetes care and education specialist.

Research got us there

The process of retitling started with the development of a new vision for the specialty that acknowledges our role as integrators for clinical management, education, prevention and support. Throughout an extensive research process, one theme kept coming up: Our name is not an accurate description for what we now do as a central point of care for people with diabetes.


Although the reasons to retitle are varied, they boil down to one goal: to increase access to and utilization of our services and affirm our position as leaders in diabetes care. Because when everyone is utilizing DSMES, costs go down, client satisfaction goes up and diabetes outcomes are improved. Life gets better for everyone involved.

ADCES worked with a professional research and branding firm to explore whether the name should change and if so, what that name would be. The methodology behind the refresh was collaborative and rigorous. The process included five rounds of research, more than 2,200 responses from members and nonmembers across the care team, 10 tested titles and five positioning directions, leading us to one solid foundation for moving forward.

We engaged health care professionals working in diabetes care, ADCES members, nonmembers, members of key diabetes organizations and people with diabetes. Every major stakeholder was given a voice in this process to help shape the future of the specialty.

In our research, we found that the diabetes care and education specialist conveyed knowledge and expertise, both traits that will help illuminate the fact that we provide education, but also much more. Why add “care”? The interactions between a diabetes care and education specialist and a person with diabetes, prediabetes or cardiometabolic condition involves education as well as collaborative, holistic care and, of course, person-centered solutions. We develop trustworthy relationships that put us in an impactful position to problem-solve and empower our clients. This, in one word, is care. It is the foundation of what we do.

Credential changes

Although the Certified Diabetes Educator credential is not a requirement to be a diabetes care and education specialist, it is a highly valued and critically important mark of distinction that many have obtained. Beginning this year, the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, the managing body for the credential, has updated its name to better align with the new specialty title. As of Jan. 1, the board is now called the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education, and the credential has been updated to the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) credential. The organization has stated that current credential holders will not have to retake the exam. For more information on the credential, visit NCBDE.org.

Next steps

There is much work to be done both as individuals and as an organization. As we begin 2020, we are energized with a vision and a clear identity that will enable us to secure our position at the forefront of better care. As diabetes care and education specialists, we are passionate about our place as the central point of care for people with prediabetes, diabetes and cardiometabolic conditions. We possess the knowledge, skills and experience to operate in a value-based care system that undoubtedly achieves the goals we are longing to meet. Our key tenants build on and expand population health principles throughout health systems. It is time for public awareness and understanding of this value so everyone can tangibly see our benefits.


ADCES will work to ensure the title of diabetes care and education specialist is recognized by people with diabetes, referring providers, diabetes organizations, payers, health care systems and the general public. By adopting the new title, we can do more to increase referrals to DSMES services, ensure we are at the table in key governmental and payer decisions, and better advocate for those with diabetes.

We kindly ask everyone do their part to further the movement. Advocate for the services of a diabetes care and education specialist in your practice and partner with them to realize the full benefits of person-centered, holistic care.

Above all, it is imperative that we remember our real reason for this change; that all individuals with prediabetes, diabetes and cardiometabolic conditions have access to and utilize the services of a diabetes care and education specialist so they may not only achieve their goals, but create a world where thriving is a way of life.

Over the next several months, we will work to make critical updates that incorporate our new specialty title into the vocabulary and practice of diabetes care. We will continue to partner with organizations that impact diabetes, prediabetes and cardiometabolic conditions and integrate the new title in all we do. I encourage you to visit DiabetesEducator.org for more information.

Disclosure: Antinori-Lent reports no relevant financial disclosures.