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Sharp Health News

Dedicated diabetes care in the South Bay

Jan. 24, 2022

David Gehlken, a diabetes nurse practitioner at Sharp Chula Vista

David Gehlken, a diabetes nurse practitioner at Sharp Chula Vista, makes sure hospital patients with diabetes are given the attention they need to manage their blood glucose levels during their stay.

When they have access to comprehensive care, people with diabetes can live a full life. A team of specialists in the South Bay is passionate about showing patients how it can be done.

Type 2 diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death nationwide and countywide. And in the South Bay — home to an ethnically and culturally diverse population — rates of mortality, hospitalization and emergency room visits rank higher than in other parts of San Diego County. A comprehensive approach to treating diabetes early is necessary to avoid or delay future complications that patients may face.

Patients with diabetes are at risk for developing low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia — a condition in which a person’s blood sugar (glucose) level is lower than normal. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. This is why it is extremely important for people with diabetes to take good care of themselves and to have a dedicated care team that can show them how to achieve good health and manage diabetes while in the hospital.

Dedicated to collaborative care
“We are a part of a network of diabetes specialists throughout Sharp HealthCare who interact and collaborate with one another to create and implement changes in diabetes care on a system level,” says David Gehlken, a diabetes nurse practitioner at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “Together, we meet patients and families at their level to render the most effective diabetes care possible.”

As a highly skilled team that collaborates throughout the hospital and works closely with nurse educators, pharmacists, dietitians and physicians, the specialists work each day to implement programs that lead patients on a path to wellness through education and support.

“Poor glycemic control is linked to increased length of stay, poor patient outcomes, infection, poor wound healing and so much more,” Gehlken says. “Many have developed the mentality of accepting poor diabetes control and treating their condition with low priority. We are working to change this as we cannot continue to be passive about diabetes care.”

Increased risk for COVID-19 complications
When infected with any virus, people with diabetes are likely to experience more severe symptoms and complications, especially if their blood glucose levels are not well managed. On February 1, 2021, 84% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Sharp Chula Vista's intensive care unit (ICU) were either people with prediabetes or diabetes.

“Caring for patients with diabetes can often be a challenge, and I feel so proud when our nurses take it upon themselves to do what’s right for our patients,” Gehlken says. “Our COVID-19 situation is no different. With severe illness, insulin resistance from steroids, and the uncertainty of our patient’s condition, our team has taken glycemic control to heart.”

According to Gehlken, the team’s nurses understand that people with diabetes are especially at risk for poorer outcomes. Having this knowledge has prompted the nurses to intervene at every level of care to better manage patients’ glucose levels during their hospital stay. And thanks to their efforts, patients with diabetes can lead rich, fulfilling lives while managing their condition.

“We are blessed to have a cohesive group of quality staff who have truly inspired me to continue moving forward with projects that will achieve greatness at Sharp Chula Vista and beyond,” says Gehlken.

For the news media: To talk with David Gehlken about managing diabetes for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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