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Communication key for diabetes control

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For most children, getting ready for school means eating breakfast, filling a backpack and making sure the homework is done. 


For about 30 diabetic children in diocesan schools, they do the same things but with added pressure — trying to maintain their blood sugar level. It means a host of supplies, snacks, constant blood testing and awareness.


When parents send their children with diabetes to school, it can be nerve-wracking. Christa Doherty, a nurse at St. Louis School in Alexandria, knows the concerns of parents firsthand because her daughter has diabetes and attends St. Mary School in Alexandria.


“If we were in a different school, her care would look different,” said Doherty. “I’m grateful the schools have been open to the care of the students. It’s difficult if you don’t know something could happen.”


Doherty said it is a relief knowing her child is being cared for, so she can care for the students at her job.


The biggest challenge, according to Amber Dise, coordinator of diocesan school health, is communication. “You have to be a good communicator because you have to communicate with the health care providers and parents, but nurses also might be the primary educator for that student in tracking trends and reporting it to the physicians and parents,” she said. “Nurses have to be pretty well rounded in communication.”


That communication starts in the beginning of the school year with paperwork from doctors and meeting with parents to identify the specific needs of each student with diabetes, knowing blood sugar numbers can change throughout the day.


Doherty said depending on the child’s maturity level, some students oversee their own care. “We’re here to moderate the situation,” she said. “The younger students come to the office for their medication. All the students wear a glucose monitor, which makes it easier to track.”


Activities such as a field trip or school party can pose challenges for these students.


Angela Koucheravy, a nurse at St. Bernadette School in Springfield, said she tries to help students with their decisions for treats such as ice cream.


“Rather than us dictate it, show the child what they can choose within the constraint of the carb counts so the student feels in control,” said Koucheravy. “As a nurse I try to steer them to healthier foods to include in their diet.”


Bernadette Berset, a nurse at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, tries to prepare the diabetic students for life in college and beyond. “I have four years from the time they come to school to make them as independent and help them become the biggest advocate they can be for themselves,” she said. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019