Chronic Illness  
 November 2, 2014

The Power of Education


From childhood I have always had a strong interest in a healthy lifestyle, particularly what we put into and how we treat our bodies as a society. Perhaps some of this interest is merely innate, but much of it I am certain is a product of both how and what I was taught.  I am a firm believer that what we have learned, no matter how or where we have learned it, (i.e. from life experience, school, or through example) shapes our existence and plays a huge role in the decisions we make and the lifestyles we chose. The ability to create change through education fascinates me. I believe education is one of, if not the key element in prevention of chronic disease. I am constantly amazed by the number of people that come into the ER with complications that could have been so easily avoided had they simply had a better understanding of how to properly manage their disease or where to obtain resources in order to do so.

People frequently ask me why I chose a career path in the very specific field of diabetes management and education.  While there are countless reasons, many pertaining specifically to the epidemic of diabetes within our country, the pressing need for better education surrounding disease management in general remains at the top of my list.  Chronic disease management requires much more teaching than can be adequately provided in a short ER stay, doctors visit or even a hospital admission. I have experienced on a regular basis the dire need for more extensive, individualized education and have come to understand the need for continuous follow up and education is equally as necessary. In addition to my own experiences in the field of nursing, I was also blessed with tremendous examples in the people in my life who showed me through their career choices and way of living the essence of proper education and just how powerful knowledge really can be, especially when it comes to quality of life.

I had the privilege of watching my mother (also a nurse) and my grandmother (a teacher by trade) caring for my great grandmother living with quite a number of chronic diseases.  I watched their meticulous attempts to manage my very traditional, very italian great grandmother’s type two diabetes, congestive heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. This was really the first time I was able to value the extent to which education and individualized care is crucial for prevention of life altering and fatal complications. To this day they will tell you that at times it was not easy, especially when it came to explaining the urgency of placing health over traditional italian customs, but because of their persistent teaching and care, I truly believe my great grandmother was able to have the happiest most abundant life in her last years with us.

I had another powerful role model in my father, a behavior analyst serving children with autism and their families. Through his work I have seen the impeccable ability of the human brain to transform and learn.  I have seen that even behaviors associated with autism (a disorder of unknown origin and pathophysiology) can be greatly improved and even eliminated through perseverance and teaching.  It has been heart-warming to say the least, to witness the drastic improvement in quality of life these children and their families experience from being taught new skills.

I have been able to see the long-term impact of effective teaching as I watched the special caregivers in my life help others achieve healthier happier lives through education. I personally see on a regular basis the dangerous outcomes of patients poorly educated on how to manage chronic disease.  It has been my experience that most patients truly want to do what is best for themselves and for their families. Proper teaching, if nothing else gives us a chance. It gives us the gift of choice to maintain our health to the best of our ability. When it comes to chronic disease management and prevention, the saying “knowledge is power” is true on such a profound level as it enables the ability to achieve the highest quality of life, happiness and health possible for us all.