Role of a Diabetes Nurse

Updated November 21, 2016

Diabetes is a life-threatening condition, but thanks to the advances of medicine and technology patients can lead a normal life. However, once diagnosed, patients must be aware of the importance of monitoring blood glucose and carbohydrates intake, as well as observing signs of diabetes-related health complications. The primary role of the diabetes nurse is to support and teach the patient how to monitor the condition, thus avoiding future health problems.

Definition of Diabetes Nurse

Diabetes nurse practitioners can adjust diabetes medications, order diagnostic tests and refer patients for consultations, according to Jane Jeffrie Seley in an article published in the journal Diabetes Spectrum.

However, to Peggy Ulrich, an assistant professor of nursing at Brevard Community College in Titusville, Fla., a diabetes nurse is, above all, an educator who teaches the patients "survival skills" and diabetes self-management.


Diabetes nurses' main responsibilities are: advising patients on diet and treatment, performing physical assessments such as feet sensibility and pupil dilatation, testing blood glucose and checking patient history of hypoglycaemic crises.

The overall responsibility of the diabetes nurse is to make sure the patient gets access to prevention tests and gets annual check-ups. This can prevent kidney and cardiac complications, eye problems and neuropathies.


During a consultation with a diabetes nurse, a patient can expect: weight check, followed by questions and advice on diet and ideal body mass; urine test, which may detect abnormal levels of proteins and sugars; blood pressure and pulse check; blood sugar test; a check on injection sites, if the patient takes insulin; examination of the feet; test for visual acuity; questions about visits to an optician; and the issuance of prescriptions for insulin or other medicines, if needed.

Become a Diabetes Nurse

In addition to a nursing degree, a diabetes nurse must complete further education and clinical training.

The requirements to become a diabetes nurse can vary from one country to another. In the U.S., requirements vary by state. Working experience as a nurse plus a relevant degree are often basic starting points for those wanting to specialise in the area.


The role of the diabetes nurse provides cost-effective care in any health system, avoiding future expenditure on related health problems.

A diabetes nurse accompanies fewer patients than a doctor, providing more individualised and frequent assistance, which will translate into a better quality of care for the patient.

However, seeing a diabetes nurse does not substitute regular consultations with a specialised doctor.

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