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Almost all nursing students will have the opportunity to work with at least one patient with diabetes, and most have developed at least one plan of care that includes diabetes education. Most faculty would say that our graduates are fairly well prepared to educate diabetic patients. However, a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that many Americans lack a basic understanding of this common disease.


The survey included 2,081 men and women from varying regions in the United States. Voluntary participants reported an average age of 46. 285 of the participants had been diagnosed with diabetes. Participants scored an average grade of 51%, which indicates a strong need for improvement in diabetes education. The survey found that only 12% realized that the healthy diet recommended for the general population is o.k. for people with diabetes. One in ten respondents believed a cure for diabetes currently exists, and 19% were not sure if a cure existed or not. Fewer than 60% of the participants could explain the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One fifth of all participants believed the death rate from diabetes is declining. Only 42 % of those surveyed realized that diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.


The Health Care and Education branch of the ADA has started a "Stop Diabetes" campaign wherein people with the disease are encouraged to share their personal stories. The hope is that when those who live with diabetes share their personal stories, including first-hand descriptions of what living with diabetes is like, awareness and understanding of and support for the disease will increase.


Of course nursing is not solely responsible for this extensive lack of knowledge about a common disease. Perhaps we do need to take a second look at how well our students understand type 1 and type 2 diabetes: the pathophysiology, treatment, lifestyle implications, and potential complications. Placing an increased emphasis on our students' understanding will at least assure us that they have the background knowledge to provide basic diabetic education.


Source: Gordon, S. November 2, 2009. Americans get failing grade on diabetes awareness. YahooA Healthy Day News.Available at Accessed on November 15, 2009.


Submitted by: Robin Pattillo, PhD, RN, News Editor