Being a Nurse & Living with Type 1 Diabetes
Courtney, a Philadelphia native, stumbled upon nursing as a career option while touring colleges looking to pursue her dream of playing Division 1 collegiate squash, and she hasn’t looked back since! After working for nearly 5 years as an inpatient adult Oncology Nurse, she joined the Trusted team as a Nurse Advocate in January, 2019! In addition to all of her achievements so far, she has also managed to do it all while living with Type 1 Diabetes. We wanted to get her perspective on her experience and advice for other nurses who may also be living with Diabetes.
What was your first experience with nursing? What influence did this have on your decision to become a nurse?
I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) since I was 3, so I have grown up in the medical field. I owe so much to my team of doctors, nurses, and health coaches who have taught me how to live independently with my diabetes.
I have been part of many clinical trials for new diabetes technologies such as insulin pumps and blood sugar sensors, and I always thought that I would want to give back in the medical world somehow. Living with diabetes helps me connect with my patients on a personal level- we all have challenges that we are overcoming and sometimes being able to squeeze a patient’s hand and I say, “I get it,” can go a really long way!
How do you balance the daily responsibilities of living with diabetes while working in the fast-paced role that nursing requires?
A million dollar question! Living with T1D is a constant juggling act thinking about blood sugars, carbohydrates, activity. Just about everything one does has the ability to influence blood sugar! It has taught me to control what I can control, plan ahead, and reflect on data to make changes. Some days the stars align and the blood sugars cooperate and other days you are hyperglycemic in the 300’s forcing a happy face in your patient’s room. But that’s life right?! Meandering and making the most of all the highs and lows!
What advice to you have for other nurses who are also living with Type 1 Diabetes?
You must care for yourself before you can care for others. There are many times during a long rapid response that I need to sub out to check my blood sugar or have a snack. As much as it pains me to do this, if I didn’t, we would potentially be transferring 2 people to the ICU!
So often as nurses we put the health of others before our own. After 24 years of living with T1D, I have started working with a Diabetes Coach to help improve not only my blood sugar control, but also my relationship with my T1D. Ask for help! Nurse burnout is real, but T1D burnout is dangerous! I have been working on self care to help reduce both types of burnout!
Use your experience living with a chronic health condition to make you a better nurse! I personally don’t like when I am referred to as a diabetic, as I know I am so much more than this, so I strive to see patients as people rather than their diagnosis. Watch your labels, the person behind the gown is more than their PMH-- I am thankful to my T1D for teaching me this!
Do you have any tips/tricks for getting through a long shift for other nurses who are also living with Type 1 Diabetes? (Any advice specifically for travel nurses with diabetes?)
Transitioning to wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) has enabled me to look at my insulin pump and see where my blood sugar is on the go. Very helpful when I am running from room to room with no time to check my blood sugar! Write down your blood sugars at the end of you shift-- look for patterns, get curious and not judgemental, find areas to make changes. Just like we are always learning as nurses, we too are always learning living with T1D.
Find your team and support groups- take time to find a team of Doctors and Nurse Practitioners you are excited to work with ( if you travel, ensure you keep up with your supplies, prescriptions, appointments, and lab work!) Make sure you have a plan for health insurance! Life with T1D is unfortunately costly, don’t get me started on the rising insulin prices! Connect with other T1D’s online, the online community for people with T1D is ever growing and chances are the places you are travel nursing to have local meetups!
Different basal (long acting insulin) programs for night and day shift! Just like you switch your body clock, your insulin dosages may need some adjusting as well! Don’t feel bad about taking OJ and peanut butter crackers from the pantry-- free hypoglycemia snacks!
What advice would you give someone considering nursing as a profession?
Oh boy, where to start! That it may be hard for the non nurse people in your life to truly understand why your day was so challenging or rewarding--like why when a patient you cared for for years passes away, you feel like you have lost a close family member-- or when a patient returns to your floor a year after their Stem Cell transplant cancer free you cry happy tears in their arms-- or that after a grueling three in a row shifts maybe you don’t feel like moving from the sofa. But, your nurse friends will get it -- and will most likely be your closest friends in life.
You will experience humanity like you have never imagined! Your patients will become more than individuals whom you have cared for and your job will be more than the sum of hours worked on your paycheck.
You will encounter nurses with many different styles of practice to get the job done safely. Seek out more experienced nurses- ask them questions, incorporate some of their practice into your own. Ask for help, acknowledge that as nurses we are constantly learning. Look for nurses who need your help and guidance, as it will only make your team stronger! And even if you’re tired, say yes to those post shift breakfast or dinners!
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What gives you energy?
I have always been a goal-oriented person, I thank playing competitive sports for that! I love feeding off what I have accomplished the day before! Right now the goal I am working towards is training for a 100 mile bike ride for Type 1 Diabetes this August out in Sonoma, CA! Can’t wait!
Do you think it's important to identify with other aspects of life in addition to "nurse" or "nursing?
Yes! 100%! This is something that is so important to me! Since transitioning into the Nurse Advocate role, although I still feel connected with my nurse identity, I now identify as a Nurse Innovator and change-maker as well! Trusted has opened my eyes to more components of our healthcare industry where nurses can make a difference. It has taught me that there are so many roles one can “nurse” in, and even if you aren’t working bedside, you will forever keep your Nurse identity!
What do you wish the world knew about nursing?
That if you are going to say “but you only work 3 days a week” comment to a nurse, I hope you are prepared to sit and listen to all that goes down in 1 shift. :)
But in all seriousness, taking care of patients in their most vulnerable moments has given me a new perspective on life. Sometimes after a hard shift, I have an overwhelming sense of urgency to live and make the most of my time! I wish the world knew that after a shift, your problems in life don’t seem like problems anymore. I feel humbled to have learned this outlook on life through my nursing career!
What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? What about for your nursing career?
I think the future of nursing is bright, but I think we will continue to see changes! We will have to continue to evolve our practice to meet the changes of healthcare policy, staffing challenges, and technology! For my career, I’m learning the sky's the limit, so my aspirations are ever changing! Working at Trusted has taught me that as our technology advances, we must advance nursing practice to meet these changes. Our healthcare system needs more Nurse Innovators to make changes to practice, and I look forward to continuing to use my voice to create change!
What’s the coolest part about working for a startup focused on nursing?
In the hospital we are taught to follow policy and stay in our lane. Often our hands are tied if we don’t have an order from an Advanced Practice Provider and creating policy change can be arduous. Working at a startup focused on nursing, I am encouraged to get out of my lane daily, to see areas of improvements, and to create immediate change.
I feel like I am part of a crusade with Trusted to change the current practice of how nurses are connected with jobs. I love talking with nurses who think I am a recruiter and are caught off guard when I ask them medical questions or inquire about nursing stories. We are taught as nurses to advocate and put your patients first, yet I am proud to advocate for nurses and to work at a company who puts nurses first in all that we do.
What do you wish nurses knew about career opportunities?
I felt pressure to matriculate into a Master’s program while in nursing school and after starting my career, so I wish nurses knew more about career opportunities we have as a Registered Nurse! Don’t get me wrong, matriculating into higher education programs is not only impressive, but also needed in our nursing industry! However, I think we need to continue to respect the diverse career opportunities we have as nurses without a Master’s degree. I think nurses should feel empowered to switch specialties! You’ve always wanted to work Pediatrics, but your first job out of school is Adult Med/Surg? Don’t be afraid to make the switch 5 years later! Go travel the country, work at new hospitals, broaden your horizons and experiences! Try out working in a clinic! Go work for a healthcare startup! Never underestimate the power of where a nurse brain can take you!
And now the fun ones:
- Healthiest habit for work days: 8 hours of sleep the night before!
- My work mornings usually start with...a quick stretch and some upbeat tunes!
- Go-to meal that I pack for work: overnight oats for the morning pre shift walk to work!
- Favorite thing to do on a day-off: a long bike ride out of the city!
- Favorite app: Spotify! Love stealing music from my friends and favorite spin instructors!
- Clogs or sneakers? Clogs all the way! Love how they give a tall gal a few more inches!
- If I wasn't a nurse, I would probably be.. I have always wanted to be a newborn photographer!
- Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither? Neither… bad nurse!
- Puke, poop, sputum, IV starts in babies, we've all got our aversion, what's yours? EKGs..of course when your patients is having chest pain, the stickers never stick and the wires get all tangled, we need to invent a wireless machine!
- Go-to choice of caffeine? Iced coffee! Anytime, any season, any weather!