How to Become a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
In speaking with Certified Diabetes Educators, or CDEs, I am always impressed by their comprehensive knowledge about diabetes, and their passion for helping those who live with the condition. I know I’ve learned a lot from the many CDEs we’ve featured on the blog. Considering all they must know to serve their clients effectively, I was really curious about the actual certification process. So I turned to Susanna Robinson, RPh, CDE, Chairperson of the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE) Board of Directors, for some insight into what’s involved in becoming a CDE.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got started in diabetes care?
A: I’ve been a pharmacist for more than 22 years. One of the reasons I was inspired to go into diabetes care is that I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 35 years. As a teen I was very involved with support groups and became very active in the American Diabetes Association, serving in leadership roles at both the state and national board of directors levels. I also ran youth support programs. So when I became a health professional, I knew I wanted to become a Certified Diabetes Educator. Getting certified allowed me to confirm that I had the skill set to assist people who live with diabetes.
Q: What are some of the benefits of becoming a CDE?
A: As a pharmacist that’s certified as a CDE, I am more aware of all components of diabetes management and understand the disease state to a larger extent. For example, when I see a patient is having challenges, in addition to focusing on their medication therapy, I have the core competency to also talk about how nutrition and exercise can effect their diabetes. Being a CDE enables me to better focus and strategize on how to help people manage their condition. I think we’re also more successful in guiding the patient not to blame themselves, but to begin to take responsibility to try and control their outcomes. It comes from that comprehensive understanding of the condition.
I think some professions believe that it’s hard to become a CDE because it requires competencies outside of your specific field. I think there are a lot of talented, passionate clinicians who could be wonderful CDEs and help people face the challenges of the disease and ultimately improve their well-being. As a member of the Board, I try to help educate people about the opportunities to become certified.
Q: What is the process for becoming a CDE?
A: You must hold a current, active, unrestricted license from the United States or its territories for a minimum of two years within a specific practice, such as a dietitian, nurse, pharmacist, physician, podiatrist, optometrist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician’s assistant or exercise physiologist. Certain levels of psychologists and social workers may also be eligible; you can check the NCBDE website for a complete listing of professions and eligibility criteria.
You have to complete 1,000 direct patient contact hours related to diabetes self-management education over the course of four years prior to sitting for the exam. You must accrue a minimum of 400 hours in the most recent year preceding application. Qualifying hours accrued under the Diabetes Educator Mentorship Program will also be accepted. The application process can be completed online or a paper application can be submitted by mail. Once the application is approved you are eligible to take the exam which is offered during two different time periods each year. After passing the exam, your certification is good for five years. You can renew that certification by participating in 75 credit hours of continuing education such as attending medical education symposiums or web-based programs related to diabetes education, treatment and management.
Q: If a layperson who doesn’t necessarily have a healthcare background is interested in becoming a CDE, how would you recommend they start?
A: Certification for Diabetes Educators is designed and intended solely for healthcare professionals who have job responsibilities that include the direct provision of diabetes self-management education. It is not for those who may perform some diabetes related function as a volunteer or part of other job functions. There are several different professional jobs which allow someone to explore the possibility of becoming a CDE; again, a complete listing is available on the NCBDE website. There are other avenues in which a layperson can be involved in diabetes support and education, but becoming a CDE isn’t an option unless they have pursued a healthcare profession first.
Q: What is the purpose of the NCBDE Board and what are the roles of the people who sit on it?
A: As the Board, one of our key responsibilities is identifying how we can create opportunities to gain recognition for the credential as a gold standard of competency and credibility. We also oversee the long-term process of exam and credentialing preparation, as well as interactions with the general public at major medical symposium meetings and diabetes related meetings.
The Board is comprised of a minimum of 10 people representing every profession that is qualified to be a certificant. We typically have a pharmacist, two nurses, two dietitians, a physician, an exercise physiologist and a psychologist. We have more nurses and dietitians on the Board because those professions represent the largest population of CDEs. Then we also have a public health member, who represents the person living with diabetes. That’s the only person on the Board who is not a CDE.
Q: Outside of NCBDE, are other diabetes educator certification programs available?
A: Yes, the other is through the American Association of Diabetes Educators; the abbreviation is BC-ADM, which stands for Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management. For that certification, you have to have an advanced clinical type degree. Information regarding this certification and eligibility can be found on the AADE website.
With a better understanding of what’s involved in becoming a CDE, I am even more grateful for the resources we have available from our CDE HELP Team to help those living with diabetes. My thanks to Susanna for providing her insights into the NCBDE and the CDE certification process.
All the best,
Disclosure: Susanna Robinson received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.