Sister Bristow helps her patients manage their diabetes


Diabetes is a major risk factor for developing COVID-19 disease. In this context, optimal management of diabetes can be lifesaving. The Discovery Health Diabetes Care Programme gives Sister Kate Bristow (left) seen with receptionist/practice manager Sue McFall (right)- the right tools to empower her patients who live with diabetes. She helps her patients to improve their understanding of the condition, the importance of screening and ongoing management.

Sister Kate Bristow has been an independent specialist Diabetes Nurse Educator (DNE) for the past 17 years. She runs her diabetes care centre from rooms in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal. Her practice extends through to Howick and the Midlands as well as Hillcrest in Durban.

"I work in a unique field and I am passionate about what I do. I improve the quality of life of my patients who have diabetes by educating them about their condition," explains Sister Bristow. "My job as a DNE is to establish a relationship based on trust and support with my patients. I am accepting and non-judgemental of their journey with a chronic condition that's extremely difficult to manage without the right medical support at every step."

Going beyond the script

"Many patients believe that a repeat script for their medicine is all that is needed to manage their diabetes," she says. "But it's not that simple. Diabetes is a long-term chronic condition that does not stay stagnant. That's why follow-ups are so essential. That's also where the services of a DNE comes in. My services include spending time with each patient and their support system or family to brainstorm their challenges."

Getting our ducks in a row

Sister Bristow explains that her services include:

  • Working with a range of options to assess diabetes control. For example, using the software from certain devices to download information from home care test meters to look at trends on home blood glucose testing, lab results, continuous glucose monitoring devices (where possible) and insulin pumps.
  • Working with other members of each patient's healthcare team to improve patient outcomes and prevent the complications associated with diabetes.
  • Offering individual education to each patient about medicine regimes, how to use medicines and injections where indicated.
  • Encouraging visits to every healthcare professional in each patient's multidisciplinary care team to identify and treat any of the complications associated with diabetes early on. This team includes the patient's physician, dietitian, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, biokineticist and, sometimes, a psychologist.
  • Supporting patients to make the right lifestyle changes to enhance their diabetes management, teaching patients about exercise and implementing healthy eating plans.
  • Assisting with diabetes burnout - a very real problem that occurs when you feel discouraged and frustrated about your condition. Diabetes burnout may cause patients to slip into unhealthy habits.
  • Teaching patients to self-manage emergency situations such as Diabetic Ketoacidosis and hypoglycaemia to try to prevent unnecessary hospitalisation.

Read all about how the Discovery Health Diabetes Care Programme has made all the difference to people who live with diabetes:

It's all about optimal management and getting the right support

"Living with diabetes means ongoing management of the condition - day to day, hour to hour," says Sister Bristow. "You cannot take a holiday from it because non-compliance with medicine or testing one's blood sugar can be life-threatening. The lifestyle and dietary changes that accompany diabetes can be tiring. The good news is that diabetes that's well managed carries a far lower risk for developing complications."

The Discovery Health Diabetes Care Programme works with the patient's chosen Premier Plus GP. Together they help patients to actively manage their diabetes and makes sure that they get high quality coordinated healthcare and the best outcomes. The Premier Plus GP is a network GP who has contracted with Discovery on quality-based metrics.

"Discovery Health's Diabetes Care Programme offers the right foundation and tools for effective diabetes management," says Sister Bristow, "A DNE then supports each patient further. I encourage them to keep working on managing their condition. They can turn to me for guidance when they feel 'stuck' about optimally doing so."

Discovery Health's important role in optimising the management of diabetes

"Diabetes management is a team effort and we're very happy that Discovery Health's Diabetes Care Programme is part of our day-to-day process", she continues. "We really feel that Discovery Health is committed to patient outcomes and better diabetes care, across the continuum of care required. They are also very willing to engage and assist us in perfecting an individualised diabetes management programme for our patients. This is no easy task considering the added challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 17 months.".

Find out more about the Discovery Health Diabetes Care Programme

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