Steamboat resident recognized as Diabetes Educator of the Year |

Steamboat resident recognized as Diabetes Educator of the Year

Steamboat Springs resident Dr. Jane Dickinson was recognized as 2019 Diabetes Educator of the Year.

For Dr. Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE, language is everything when it comes to diabetes. Recently recognized as 2019 Diabetes Educator of the Year, Dickinson has spent three decades working to change terminology and the way people talk about diabetes.

“People tend not to recognize the emotional side of diabetes,” she said. Replacing negative, judgmental language with what she calls “person-centered, strengths-based and empowering” language can not only build better relationships between patients and providers, but actually improve patient outcome. The negative terminology, in turn, can hurt patient outcome, Dickinson said.

A Steamboat Springs resident for 20 years, Dickinson established the Diabetes Education Program at Yampa Valley Medical Center (now UCHealth) in 2000 and ran it for 12 years.

In 2011, she began remotely teaching graduate students as the Program Director/Lecturer for the Diabetes Education and Management for the Masters Program at Teachers College Columbia University.

The online degree is the first of its kind, representing more than ten health care disciplines with students from 16 states and three countries.

Dickinson is also active online through her blog and participation in social media conversations and support groups. She continues to educate Yampa Valley community members and healthcare providers on managing and living well with diabetes. She has also published two books: Diabetes Karma in 2012, and People with Diabetes Can Eat Anything in 2013.

Dickinson was herself diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1975. She writes her blog using both her expertise and personal experience under the theme “choices, balance and positive attitude.” It is important to remember, she said, that anyone, at any age, can get diabetes.

The label “diabetic,” puts the disease before the person, Dickinson said, and is at the top of the list of words she is “trying very hard to eradicate.” There are now known to be about 11 factors that can lead to diabetes, she said, yet with diabetes often comes “a lot of blame and shame.” The finger pointing toward the patient is “not new — it’s an age old belief that people bring it on themselves.”

Genetics is a huge factor among the numerous others, Dickinson said, and in general “It doesn’t help to blame the person for the disease.” Judgment and negative language makes people feel discouraged, bad about themselves and “worst case — give up.” They may be less likely to get help and less likely to take care of themselves, she said.

Living with diabetes, she emphasized, is about self-management and choices. It’s not about obeying orders — thus her efforts to get rid of words like “compliance,” “control,” and “adherence.”

A term like “noncompliant” doesn’t tell the whole story, Dickinson said, such as if a person isn’t taking medication because they are unable to afford it.

Instead, by using words that build on strengths, let patients know its not their fault and give credit for what they are doing right, they are encouraged to take better care of themselves, she said.

On her blog, Dickinson writes: “I have met enough people who have felt the impact of negative language to see what it’s doing. It is not helping anything, and, in many cases, it’s contributing to poor self-esteem, decreased engagement, lack of trust in providers and diminished self-care. I also know that many, many people out there are affected by negative diabetes language and don’t even know it, let alone feel comfortable saying or doing something about it. So I’ve made it my mission to talk about it and work toward changing it.”

Already a leader in the movement to change diabetes-related language, the Educator of the Year award will allow Dickinson to further expand her reach by lecturing across the country throughout 2019.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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