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Sharon Nelson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator (CDE) at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Sorrento Mesa and Rancho Bernardo sites. She received her bachelor's of science degree in nutrition at California State University Fresno and completed her dietetic internship at Mercy Hospital in San Diego.
How did you chose to work in the field of diabetes education?
Type 2 diabetes is rampant in my family genetics (dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents) so I always had a personal interest in the science behind diabetes, as well as seeing the success and struggles of my family members living with it. As I became a more experienced dietitian, my interest in diabetes and how to better connect to my patients with diabetes continued to grow. In the late 1980s, a diabetes educator certification was nationally developed and I knew this was my calling.
What do you do in your role at Sharp Rees-Stealy as a certified diabetes educator?
As a diabetes teacher/coach, it so important that my patients with diabetes have adequate and up-to-date information about their diabetes in order to understand what is involved in their self-management plan. There is so much more to diabetes than "just don't eat sugar," which is a myth. Meeting with a diabetes educator and attending a diabetes education program is helpful at diagnosis.
We offer a four-week diabetes self-management class series where the foundation of education starts. We also meet with patients on an individual basis to problem solve, motivate and support their efforts in making small changes to improve their health throughout their life journey.
How do you help your patients succeed in managing their diabetes?
By nature I am a good listener and nonjudgmental. I try to meet patients where they are at and help breakdown the magnitude of diabetes self management (meal planning, movement, monitoring, medications) into small baby steps that the patient can realistically attain. Since most of diabetes treatment is performed by the patient, it is important that patients have clear, personally felt goals and skills to achieve them.
What is the key to self-managing a chronic condition like diabetes?
Keeping a positive attitude. I tell my patients that they may even live longer because their condition requires them to practice a more healthful lifestyle. Keep follow-up appointments with your doctor and your diabetes educator. Often when patients are struggling, they will cancel appointments because because they are afraid that we will be mad or disappointed. When, in actuality, this is when they really need the support.
I think a big stumbling block for self-management is having an "all or nothing" attitude. If they can't do the diet and everything perfectly then they don't do anything. "Progress not perfection" is my motto and sometimes progress is two steps forward and one step backward — that's life!
How do you stay healthy?
I believe in balance and moderation in all areas of my life. I don't follow a rigid diet but do heed sensible guidelines. I try not to eat too much or too little. I try to eat slowly and be mindful of not only what I eat, but when, where, how and why. I run (not fast) four days a week (it is my stress outlet) and do a daily six-minute arm workout with weights.
I have recently been trying to improve my posture and have incorporated a 20-minute stretching program (at home watching a DVD) most evenings after a long workday. I also enjoy hiking on weekends, and I count housecleaning, yard work and washing my car as exercise (movement), too.
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.
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