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Patricia Fitzgerald, RN, certified diabetes educator (CDE), began her nursing career in New York City, working on a medical-surgical unit in a small community hospital. In 1978, she moved with her family to beautiful San Diego. Once settled, she took a job at Pomerado Hospital in Poway.
As a mother of three, she was lucky enough to stay at home, but always tried to stay active in her nursing career and started with Sharp in January 1992. Though most of her background has been in OBGYN, she became interested in the Diabetes Disease Management Program and found many opportunities to learn about this progressive condition.
How did you choose to work in the field of disease management?
I began working as a diabetic educator at Sharp Memorial Hospital and in the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion in 2006. Working per-diem enabled me to interact with the patients in several ways: at the bedside, during scheduled office visits and through teaching group classes. I found the work to be very challenging, and equally gratifying. Having spent the previous 15 years of my career working with postoperative or postpartum women and their newborns, teaching patients with diabetes was a very interesting change for me, bringing me closer to the real problems faced by so many in our society.
What do you do in your role at Sharp Rees-Stealy Disease Management?
The field of disease management appeals to me in several ways. It is an important addition to the health maintenance of the patient, and supports the health practitioner as well as the patient. It allows the nurse to reach out to the patient, advise in the area of the patient's chronic disease and to be a liaison between the patient and the physician. I encourage the patient to visit the DDM office after seeing the physician in order to review the very important diabetes plan that they are to follow: diet, exercise and, most critically, medication.
How do you help your patients succeed in managing their chronic disease?
Once the patient has become initiated to their health plan, the disease manager continues to touch base to individualize their plan, and ensure that the plan is working for them. Titrating the medication is one very crucial aspect of disease management, as well as actively listening to the patient's view of their own situation. Much can be gathered in a phone call or visit by allowing the patient to express him or herself, and reflect on where they can make improvements in their own lives. The disease manager can then help the patient to stay on track with factual feedback and encouragement. Most importantly, the patient needs to feel invested in the process of making healthy changes in their own lives. I believe that to be the essence of making the health plan successful.
What is the key to self-managing a chronic disease?
Over the years, I have learned to make "staying healthy" a priority in my own life.
How do you stay healthy?
I can relate very well to patients who say that they "can't find the time" to exercise, or "just love cookies"! But the difference in how I feel when I do go for that swim or walk is the proof for me, so I "just do it"! I also love to shop at our local farmers' markets and bring home all that fresh produce. Fortunately for me, I have a husband who loves to cook (and eat!).
For More Information
To learn more or to speak with someone to determine if you're eligible to participate in a Sharp Rees-Stealy disease management program, please call 619-446-1571, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
I believe excellent health is an essential ingredient to happiness, which is life's ultimate goal."
1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.
If you have any additional questions,
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