Doctor of optometry eschews sideline in diabetes crusade

January 2, 2019
How she formed a support group for prediabetic and diabetic patients and why she’s seeking certification as a diabetes educator.
Diabetes support

Diabetes forward—that's one way to describe the Charlotte, North Carolina, practice of Paula Newsome, O.D. Rather than waiting for patients to find her, Dr. Newsome has waded into the diabetes fray.

First, she was a willing warrior in an AOA-sponsored study that underscored the vital role doctors of optometry can play in buttressing care with other health care providers for the nation's prediabetic and diabetic patients.  

Second, she's sharpening her knowledge on the subject so she can seek certification as a diabetes educator—to better serve her patients.  

"Understanding the demographics and future projections, and noticing what was happening to members of my family and patients in my office, is what really heightened my awareness of the 'sugaring' of America," Dr. Newsome says.  

Making a plan

A certified diabetes educator (CDE) "is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in diabetes prevention, prediabetes and diabetes management," according to the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). It's the organization through which Dr. Newsome is seeking her certification as a diabetes educator. 

Even before health care professionals can take the NCBDE examination, they must meet a number of requirements, including having: 

  • An active professional license.
  • Current practice experience in the U.S. or its territories.
  • A minimum of two calendar years of practice experience since receiving the license.
  • A minimum of 1,000 hours during the past year of diabetes education practice experience (including a minimum of 400 hours amassed in the most recent calendar year before the test).
  • A minimum of 15 hours of diabetes-related continuing education.

Only then can professionals—including doctors of optometry—apply to take the CDE exam at one of the designated test centers across the country. The certification is good for five years.  

Dr. Newsome also took a continuing education course, the CORE Concepts Course®, through the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), which does not certify diabetes educators but does possess many resources for preparing for the NCBDE educator certification exam.  

The AADE also is one of two organizations (the other is the American Diabetes Association), recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service, that accredit groups who provide diabetes self-management education that meets certain quality standards. To receive CMS reimbursement for providing diabetes self-management education, a practice's program and provider must be accredited.  

"What prompted me to pursue my CDE was understanding how much about diabetes I did not know," Dr. Newsome says. "In conjunction with Dr. Ansel Johnson (of Blue Island, Illinois), we decided to become experts in that space and get our CDE. 

"In the process of looking at better ways to serve our patients, we looked at programs that were on the market and determined that none of the programs emphasized what we thought was important from an eye care perspective—preventing microvascular disease," she says. 

Toward that end, Dr. Newsome started "KNOC Out DiabetesTM," weekly educational, support and optometry-focused sessions for patients with diabetes or prediabetes. "KNOC" stands for Knowledge-Nutrition-Ocular Health-Coaching.  

Helping patients self-manage care

Optometry has a role to play in helping patients self-manage their care, she says. For the earlier study, Dr. Newsome was among 23 doctors of optometry who recruited 95 patients who had not been following their diabetes treatment plan. 

To promote diabetes health, doctors of optometry provided patients in the study with a glucose monitoring system, training by the doctors and their office staff on how to use it, education on the importance of daily self-monitoring of blood glucose, and encouragement. As a result of the study, more patients got engaged in monitoring their blood glucose after six weeks, more sought out their primary care providers and most patients expressed satisfaction with the program. 

"Our patients frequently share that they have learned more from our sessions with them than they do from their primary care providers," she says. 

Learn more about becoming a certified diabetes educator.

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