Is Knowledge Power – By Helen May


I recently read the results of a study entitled “What happens when patients know more than their doctors?“. The conclusion was that whilst it is beneficial for people with diabetes to participate in courses such as DAFNE and DESMOND, this can lead to problems when they subsequently find themselves with non-specialist healthcare professionals such as GPs because the patient knows more about their condition.

When I investigated the DAFNE course, it looks as if the closest centre for me is 60 miles away. There is a DESMOND course closer but it is only available for patients diagnosed in the last 12 months and is targeted at Type 2: not for someone who’s Type 1 was diagnosed 10 years ago. So, instead of these courses, I rely on my own research and reading to become as educated as possible about diabetes.

Thankfully, outside my diabetes check ups, I have little need to spend time with healthcare professionals. And since my diabetes diagnosis, I have been lucky enough not to have to deal with the health care egos who seem to need to prove their superiority (I did experience these people before my diagnosis). Instead, I have had to deal with the opposite: I have to ask the nurse to check whether my holiday jabs will have any effect on my blood sugar control, and check with the physio whether the ultrasound will have any impact. Both of these were fine although the cortisone injection to treat carpul tunnel certainly had an impact: my blood sugars went high for a few days. But it was incredibly painful over that time too so I will forgive my control for this one.

On my last dental check-up, I was asked about pre-existing conditions. Even though, I had told them previously, the information about my diabetes evoked a strong interest: the dentist had just returned from a conference about diabetes and its affect on teeth and gums. But rather than give me a lecture, he saw me as an opportunity to extend his understanding and learn from the horse’s mouth (so to speak). I try to talk only about my experience and explain that it is not the same for all, but I welcome this desire for others to learn more. This can only help the population as a whole.

So instead of health professionals telling me what to do, I have been reminding them about my condition. I guess this just emphasizes the need for ME to control MY diabetes. Even if I did have an available healthcare professional to help, or if there was a course like DAFNE for me to attend, or if I lived with a family of diabetes specialists, they do not experience hypos and hypers first hand; they do not have to carb count everything I eat (although my boyfriend often helps); they do not have to be aware of diabetes when I exercise; they do not live with diabetes 24 x 7. But it does make me wonder about the other side of the DAFNE and DESMOND courses and whether there should be similar programs for health care professionals to give support to people with diabetes to be empowered.

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