Science & Technology/Study by Siminerio Highlights Need for More Nurse Involvement in Diabetes Management

Issue Date: 
February 5, 2007

The director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute (UPDI), Linda Siminerio, has led the way in nationwide research demonstrating that physicians, nurses, and their patients want nurses to be more involved in providing diabetes care.

Siminerio’s finding are reported in the February issue of the journal The Diabetes Educator.

Nationally, diabetes is the fifth-leading cause of death, according to the American Diabetes Association. Many people first become aware of the disease when confronted with one of its life-threatening complications, such as heart disease, blindness, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, or circulatory problems leading to amputation. Experts estimate that 1.5 million new diabetes cases are diagnosed each year in the United States and that the disease accounts for $132 billion in total healthcare costs every year.

The nationwide Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes, and Needs (DAWN) study examined the roles nurses and physicians play in caring for patients with diabetes. Siminerio said, “Previous studies have shown that a collaborative approach to diabetes management improves a variety of diabetes outcomes in patients, so understanding how nurses factor into the process is important, since they often are the healthcare providers who are in most contact with the patient.”

The DAWN study asked nurses and doctors to consider their roles in administering diabetes care and rate their experiences. Nurses responded that they had a better rapport with patients and developed relationships with them that enabled them to provide better diabetes self-management. The findings also showed that nurses reported a better appreciation for the psychological needs of patients and the need for better communication with them. Doctors, nurses, and patients agreed that nurses need to be more involved in diabetes care.

According to the investigators, these results suggest that empowering nurses will enable improved diabetes care, better communication, and promotion of self-management, ultimately resulting in better patient outcomes.

“Nurses serve a critical role in diabetes care; they are at the front lines and are better able to provide the kind of information diabetes patients need to better manage their disease,” said Siminerio.

“This study supports the idea behind Governor Rendell’s Prescription for Pennsylvania plan by proposing that one of the best ways to care for diabetes, a chronic disease, is through the nurses who are skilled to provide information about disease self-management,” she added. “Utilizing nurses’ expertise early on can enable patients to lead a healthier life and avoid the severe and costly complications that come with mismanagement of the disease later on.”

The mission of the UPDI, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is to provide and support diabetes prevention, detection, education, treatment, and research. For more information, visit the UPDI Web site at