By Krystina Ostermeyer – RN, BSN, CDE
Let me tell you a story, fellow nurses.
I was once a floor nurse. Like many of you, I got burned out. I became exhausted of the drudgery of the call lights, the telemetry monitors, IVs beeping.
So, I left.
I posted to a position as a diabetes educator.
“I can do this!” I thought. “I’ve worked with SO many diabetic patients on the telemetry unit! I’ve given so much insulin! I’m a master of insulin drips!”
But what I didn’t know was that I’d be working with patients who feared their new diagnosis. Some couldn’t afford their insulin – so they didn’t take it. Some used hyperglycemia as a means of weight loss. Others were excited about starting a new insulin pump and used their new diagnosis as a means to change their entire life.
I began to realize that diabetes (regardless of the type) is more than just a term in someone’s medical history–more than “Metformin 1000mg po BID” in someone’s medication list – it is a disease that alters someone’s entire life.
So I threw myself into my new role and learned more than I ever thought I could learn about diabetes. I sought out to teach something to every patient that I came across.
Initially, I worked in outpatient diabetes education. This meant that I had an assigned patient load each day. My patients came in to see me for type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes, or gestational diabetes. Occasionally they were newly diagnosed, but often they were coming in because they were having some type of “issue” – they needed to start insulin, perhaps, or needed help with their meter, or needed help troubleshooting their insulin pump.
Sometimes, the patient came to me merely to appease their doctor. These visits were short and sweet, and I was left frustrated, not feeling as if I had accomplished anything.
More often that not, the patient came with an agenda, though. For example, a patient who was having a hard time controlling their blood glucose levels could come in with their log and I could review their log with them and help figure out a more appropriate insulin dose.
The really satisfying patients? When I was able to solve a problem – when they could not afford a meter or their medication, and I was able to help them find a solution.
Eventually my practice evolved to pediatric diabetes. I worked with another educator in a pediatric clinic on rotating days and helped care for pediatric patients with type 1 diabetes.
I trucked along for several years. One day, I walked in to work and found that my facility was making budget cuts – and my position was being eliminated.
I’d like to say that I walked out of work that day with my head held high, but that would be a fib. I walked out tearfully – I had fallen in love with my job, and I was terrified I would not find something else that I enjoyed that much.
Life has a funny way of working out; although I would not have picked to lose my job, I could not have picked to “lose” it at a better time. I was scheduled to have brain surgery – my neurologist had found a brain tumor, and it was growing. I needed to have it removed to ensure that I did not have seizures.
My craniotomy went well, my brain tumor was benign, and my recovery was going smoothly. Near the end of my recovery, I received a text message from my old boss, asking me to give her a call when I had a chance.
It had only been a couple of months, but an opportunity had arisen to return to my job. Should I take the job – returning to the facility who felt it necessary to eliminate my position? Or should I move on and find something new?
Two quick months later, I walked back into the hospital that I had worked for ten years. This time, I can say that I walked in with my head held high.
I am working as an inpatient diabetes educator. I am also still working with pediatric diabetes education. I can also say that I went back for the love of the job.