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Navigating diabetes made easier with dedicated nurses

22 July 2020

The complexity of managing diabetes has become less burdensome for the estimated 1.2 million Australians diagnosed with the condition thanks to dedicated Nurse Navigators specialising in Endocrine Disorders and Diabetes at QEII Jubilee and Princess Alexandra Hospitals.

Elaine Chapman, Nurse Navigator at PAH, said her role involved putting structures in place for patients to help them manage the disease.

“The Nurse Navigator role ties in all the requirements for health - social, physical and mental. We get to know patients and identify their needs so we can create conditions that are conducive to better living despite diabetes.”

QEII Nurse Navigator Deanne Tate (pictured) said creating care networks around patients was an essential part of reducing hospital admissions.

“Our clients may have little to no support at home, and may lack understanding of their health condition so we work to create a different health paradigm by educating them about diabetes and connecting them with health professionals who can assist them in managing it over their lifespan.”

Ms Tate said she also acted in an advocacy and maintenance role for patients and had the latitude to intervene quickly to prevent negative health consequences resulting from diabetes mismanagement. 

“I am seeing a gentleman tomorrow who was given a script for insulin by his doctor. He came in and was shown how to use the insulin last week, but when I called him today, he said he had forgotten how to use it.

“The beauty of the Nurse Navigator system is it allows us to address issues like this straight away. Rather than waiting another week or two to link him into an outpatient appointment, I am going out tomorrow to oversee him administering the insulin and will keep visiting until he can manage his medication successfully.”

Ms Tate said comprehensive diabetes management was essential to avoid devastating health outcomes.

“Diabetes is a serious chronic health condition which occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood. Over time high glucose levels can damage the body’s blood vessels and nerves, leading to long term health complications.

“Poor management of diabetes affects the whole body. It affects your heart, your kidneys, your feet, and your eyes. I see so many clients with complications of long-term core mismanagement,” she said.

“Before she was referred to me, one of my clients was admitted to hospital with bleeding in both her eyes which led to blindness. Others have related conditions like foot ulcers that result from poor blood sugar control, so it’s incredibly important to have good management of diabetes for quality of life, which is where Nurse Navigators come in.”

Ms Chapman said people often found diabetes mentally taxing to manage, which is why Diabetes Week 2020 was themed around the subject of mental health. It is estimated that people with diabetes face up to 180 diabetes-related decisions every day.

“Any chronic disease is likely to cause depression,” Ms Chapman said. “The day to day running of it takes its toll. Patients get fatigued from monitoring everything and when that happens, they take a ‘diabetes holiday’ and then they deteriorate physically, and their mental health takes a slide.

“Diabetes is relentless. Patients always need to think about how their exercise and diet will impact on their health.”

Ms Tate agrees that looking after the mental health of people with diabetes is a prerequisite for managing the physical aspects of the disease.

“Patients need to be in the right headspace to self-care because being healthy when you have diabetes requires a lot of effort and people lose their motivation when they are depressed,” she said. “We support clients by linking them to mental health services as needed.”

Ms Tate said the favourite part of her role was assisting clients in their natural setting. 

“You get to go out and support patients where they live, you build rapport and it’s a privilege to be invited into their own home,” she said.

“You get to know people so much better and develop a relationship of trust so you can really make inroads in improving the patients’ health.”

For more information or to access the Nurse Navigator Endocrine Disorders and Diabetes service visit:

Last updated 22 July 2020
Last reviewed 22 July 2020

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