Can Diabetes Educators use Twitter to Support Experienced Type 1s?

Jayne Lehmann RN CDE

Part 2: Twitter – A tool for good not evil!

In the second part of this blog on Twitter and its use by diabetes educators, the role it can play in supporting people who have had type 1 diabetes for a long time and are confidently self managing, or the veteran T1s, is explored.

teamTwitter enables people to share their ideas and information in the education and support of people with diabetes. As I increase my interaction with the various social media platforms, it is hard not to notice the conversations between people with diabetes, especially those with type 1, as they reach out to each other via cyberspace. These virtual communities provide support, information, education, debriefing, access to new resources and a healthy dose of humour to break the tension of the daily grind of living with this condition.

It’s funny … in the past I would have said these were all aspects of the role of a Diabetes Educator (DE) … but on social media the ‘educators’ are currently more likely to be people living with, rather than working with, diabetes (although some do both!).

When I posted the following tweet recently:


… it wasn’t long before I got the following response from regular blogger @TwiceDiabetes:


After putting my awe aside of the almost immediate response time (are tweeters never away from their devices?) I pondered, “What can I offer someone who has had type 1 diabetes for some time and is confidently managing it and sharing that knowledge and support with others?

My initial response to @TwiceDiabetes – over 2 tweets, as sometimes 140 characters are just not enough, was the following



@CassyNZ also responded to initial question, highlighting that when it came to seeking advice out of business hours it was Twitter that she turned to because the ‘UK D peeps’ (see full message below) are online when the Diabetes Nurse Specialist is tucked up in bed.


People with diabetes are engaging with their diabetes care in an increasingly sophisticated manner. The combination of @CassyNZ’s diabetes nurse specialist and the Twittersphere provides her with 24 hour coverage … we all know diabetes doesn’t stick to office hours!

qustionI can hear some asking, “But what about the quality of the information?” Well from what I’ve seen it’s pretty high due to the active interaction between ‘peeps’ living with diabetes for a long time and a few health professionals (some are both!) There is a natural moderation of the information shared as others provide insights and correct inaccuracies as conversations progress.

Diabetes educators and other health professionals sometimes interact in these forums, or choose to sit in the background. No matter which approach they use, a great deal can be learnt about the way people with diabetes want to be treated and the sort of information that is useful in their daily diabetes care.

girl-rightI don’t have diabetes but my 21 year old daughter has Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability, unstable epilepsy, walking difficulties (crouch gait), scoliosis and autism. Online communities have popped up but there are no ‘Dravet’s Educators’ with the knowledge and skills to bring the science and reality of living with Dravet’s together for client focused support. If we had been able to access to a DE equivalent I’m sure we would have been much better supported through the maze of emotions around her diagnosis, emergency seizure care, treatment and associated health problems. School care plans would have been easier to compile and research easier to access for a better understanding of the impact of this condition on our daughter’s present and future.

qustionMaybe this is what it would have been like for people with diabetes if we had not established diabetes education, care support services and resources over the past 30 years or so. Could it be that the group of people with type 1 diabetes identified in @TwiceDiabetes’ question, the ‘veteran T1s’ who are confident, knowledgeable and multi-skilled diabetes self managers, have outgrown their DE?

Is it time for the tables to be turned and DEs proactively engage with veteran type 1s via social media to further evolve their own knowledge and skills in the new technologies and their application to diabetes care?  Does the student become the teacher, bringing a sophistication to the relationship between these two groups?  Is social media where people can come together for the good of others not the ego of the individual?

I would like to once again suggest, DEs need to stop running away from social media and look at social media as another education resource for their own learning and that of the people they support.

DEs can review their own practice using the following questions:

How can I support the #DESOS (Diabetes Education SOS) of the experienced as well as the less experienced person with T1 diabetes?

Is it time for me to explore social media to see what it can teach me about living with and self managing diabetes?

Can I share information with my clients on high quality social media forums?

Why not lurk in the Twittersphere … read conversations … and find your bearings in this brave new world:

  • Join Twitter conversations to enhance the depth of the resource
  • Incorporate social media as a forum for your own learning and intellectual contemplation.

You can share this and previous blogs with your followers, friends and colleagues by hitting the share button … or print a hard copy for any DEs you know that aren’t on social media… and let’s keep the conversation going …

Tweet your reaction, thoughts and ideas to @JayneEdHealth using the #diabetesedoz to easily identify information of interest to diabetes educators in Australia! Alternatively leave a comment below.

Comment to Can diabetes educators use Twitter to support experienced type 1s?

Ashley on Thursday, 12 February 2015 7:48 AM

Great post Jayne! I love how outspoken and encouraging you are for diabetes educators and other health professionals alike to embrace social media. Social media has definitely become ingrained within our society today with the availability of smart phones and wi-fi. People with diabetes (or any other health condition for that matter) are increasingly reaching out to online sources not only for information, but for support. My favourite part of the diabetes online community is how supportive they are. It doesn’t matter what type of diabetes you have, the wider community will accept you and there will always be someone willing to listen to your story and with that, learn from your experience. The diabetes online community is also pretty self-regulating. If we see something that even hints at discrimination, misinformation or bogus cures, we are quick to shut it out and make a big fuss out of it. I even had a friend describe it as a perfect example of a consumer driven market. People with diabetes live with the condition every day. They understand themselves in relation to their diabetes better than anyone else. So it only makes sense to form a collaborative partnership with them, particularly during diabetes consults, to help people with diabetes be the best they can be. Keep up the great work! Cheers, Ashley @Health4Diabetes.

Author: Edhealth

I have written and produced the Diabetes Care in the Community Course for Support Workers. I am also the administrator of the course.

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