The role of a diabetes specialist nurse

Updated July 19, 2017

Many registered nurses choose to specialise in a particular field so they can take on more responsibilities for patient care and treatment. Programs are available which allow registered nurses to become certified as diabetes specialists and work specifically with diabetes patients. Nurses can also become certified diabetes educators. Nurse practitioners can become diabetes specialist nurse practitioners and provide a high level of patient care for patients affected by diabetes.


The role of a diabetes specialist nurse is similar to the role of any other R.N. or nurse practitioner: providing patient care. However, while a general R.N. or nurse practitioner provides patient care in a number of settings, diabetes specialist nurses work primarily with diabetic patients, helping them control, understand and manage their diabetes; and helping physicians care for diabetic patients.


Diabetes specialist nurses are responsible for educating patients about diabetes care. Special certificate programs offered through the American Diabetes Association teach nurses national standards for diabetes patient education. Nurses certified in this area educate patients and prospective patients about diabetes, and discuss diabetes prevention and care in lecture settings. These lectures can include facts on diet, exercise, obesity and food choice.

Patient Care

Diabetic nurses provide care for diabetes patients. Diabetes patients can be hospitalised or require doctor visits to control and manage their condition. Management of diabetes includes medication, monitoring of insulin levels, and treatment of complications that can arise as a result of diabetes. Diabetes specialist nurses have an in-depth understanding of bodily systems often affected by diabetes including the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal gland, pineal gland and the parathyroid.


Diabetes specialists and nurse practitioners who specialise in diabetes are able to perform medical tests and take an active role in diagnosing and managing diabetes. These functions include performing blood glucose level tests and other tests to examine insulin levels in the patient and otherwise ensure that the patient's diabetes is not adversely affecting his body.

Expanding Role

Diabetes specialist nurses are being trusted with an increased level of autonomy in caring for diabetic patients as part of cost containment efforts within the health care system. It often costs less for a patient with a routine problem or who needs a routine checkup to see a nurse practitioner or specialist nurse, as opposed to a doctor.
Many nurse practitioners treat a significant number of diabetic patients. A nurse practitioner who is a certified diabetes specialist can change medication doses and order clinical exams without consulting with a doctor. Diabetes nurse practitioners can carry out physical exams on a patient, order and interpret laboratory tests, and prescribe medications. Diabetes nurse practitioners then can work with patients to order blood glucose tests or other diabetes-related tests, and to adjust doses of insulin and prescribe other medication designed to manage diabetes.

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