November marks National Diabetes Month, aimed at raising awareness that 30 million adults in the US are living with diabetes, while some 84 million have prediabetes. Due to that prevalence, offering timely, expert diabetic care is essential for a healthcare provider like NorthShore Health Centers. For that, they turn to their team of nurse practitioners such as Patience Tieri.
Tieri joined NorthShore about four years ago, bringing over two decades of experience along with her. Like all nurse practitioners, she undertook additional training and earned a master’s degree that qualifies her to fill more responsibilities than a standard registered nurse, but not as many as a doctor.
“The amount of schooling and training that a physician goes through is much longer than a nurse practitioner,” Tieri said. “However, we’re able to diagnose conditions, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, whereas a regular RN handles administering those medications in a typical hospital setting.”
Tieri works with a team of collaborating doctors who help supervise and take over cases that are outside of her or the other nurse practitioner’s expertise. Patient care is a collaborative effort at NorthShore, with every provider bringing something unique to the table.
“One thing that one of our doctors said this morning that I really appreciated is that we nurse practitioners bring a different perspective,” she said. “We learned to care for patients in a different setting. I learned so much in my 20 years as an ICU nurse about not only working with patients, but also their families. There’s that idea of a nurse’s heart, where all those years at the bedside make you see things just a bit differently.”
That nurse’s heart is key when Tieri needs to deliver a diabetes or prediabetes diagnosis to a patient. While it is manageable, it usually means significant lifestyle changes such as losing weight and changing what you eat. It is often a difficult, complicated time for patients.
“Education is the most important thing,” she said. “We can’t just say ‘you need to lose 50 pounds in a month.’ That’s not realistic. You start with small things like adding some exercise and diet changes.”
NorthShore has a diabetes educator who sits and chats with patients after their diagnosis. They are also available for a phone call so that no one needs to make an appointment simply to have their questions answered. Patients who are having a hard time with medication costs can also address this concern with their provider to see if the 340B pharmacy has better options available. NorthShore has an endocrinologist on staff two days a week to collaborate with Tieri on patients with more extensive conditions. Tieri’s goal is to help patients take charge of their own health by keeping them informed and leading them to healthy choices.
“It needs to be collaborative with the patient, because making people feel guilty or scaring them with insulin never works,” she said. “Often, people who are diabetic or prediabetic but didn’t know it don’t even realize how crummy they feel. When we get them under control and on a better diet they always talk about how they feel so much better and have more energy.”
Since Tieri works as a general family practitioner, she gets to see her patients for their regular wellness checks – not just when something is wrong. Thanks to that, she has turned preventative care into one of her primary focuses.
“Going to your primary care provider for a checkup at least once a year is so important,” she said. “If we can catch those negative signs very early, we can manage them before they cause any long term effects. Diabetes can take a toll on your eyes, heart, kidneys, feet, and nervous system. That’s why we need to control it before it can get out of control.”