It is difficult for clinicians to be totally aware of the magnitude of the impact diabetes management has on a person’s life. A pump use simulation exercise, aimed at increasing awareness of the issues faced by a new pump user, was organised by the Co-ordinator of the Young People’s Clinic (YPC), at the Royal Newcastle Centre, Hunter New England Local Health District. The YPC is a multidisciplinary clinic catering for young people with diabetes aged 18 to 30 years.
Two diabetes registrars and four diabetes nurse educators took up the challenge to see what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person starting on an insulin pump.
Representatives from two pump companies offered sample pumps so they could experience what was involved in wearing an insulin pump for a week. The participants learnt how to set up the pump, how to insert the cannula and load the device with the insulin (normal saline was substituted in the simulation), and then how to adjust the rates of delivery to match the food intake. The pump wearers were sent on their way and had to deal with various scenarios relating to the pump and with type 1 diabetes management issues that might arise in their working and social life, including the rigours of blood glucose monitoring. These challenges included having persistent hypos after a busy day at work, a binge drinking episode and a pump malfunction. The issues faced and possible solutions were discussed by the team during and after the completion of the exercise.
The exercise drove home to the participants the potential difficulties faced by patients and heightened their empathy, particularly for those who persisted with blood glucose testing 6-7 times per day!