Why I Love My Job

Sonia Benel, RN, CDE, BSN, M.Ed.

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Compiled by John Brieske, Pulse managing editor. Got a health care job that you love? Please send email to jbrieske@ajc.com.

Job: Certified diabetes educator, Diabetes and Nutrition Center, Eastside Medical Center.

What I do: "I teach prediabetics, gestational diabetics and diabetics in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. We see patients in individual as well as group settings."

How I got into this: "I have always wanted to teach and work in the health field. Twenty years ago, I was offered a position to work as a diabetes educator and my two passions were combined into one."

Best part of the job: "Helping people with diabetes see that the diagnosis does not have to lead to devastating losses. Teaching them how to take charge of their lives and to see diabetes as a way to live 'mindfully' — to see the healthy benefits that come with taking care of their diabetes.
"Meeting people at a crisis point in their lives and helping them to turn it around to get healthier and feel better is extremely rewarding."

Most challenging part: "Teaching inpatients who have already lost limbs, vision or kidney function is very challenging. Sometimes it is just a matter of trying to live each day and do their best despite the limitations they may have."

What people don't know about my job: "A diabetes educator has to practice holistic medicine; one cannot isolate the diabetes from the whole person. Social and psychiatric problems greatly impact one's ability to manage their diabetes. Family dynamics also have to be assessed and worked with.
"Shift work is very challenging, especially for those on insulin. Meals and snacks have to be worked out around the work hours. Financial challenges have to be assessed and programs to help with getting medications, doctor visits, food and shelter examined. The diabetes educator must coordinate all the disciplines that will help the patient manage their diabetes."

What keeps me going: "The gratitude I get from helping others with a serious disorder avoid devastating losses. The improvement in the patients' numbers — blood sugar, weight, blood pressure — are important, but the smiles and hugs I get from them when they feel hopeful about their future is the true reward for me."

Preparation needed: "A bachelor's degree, 1,000 hours of working directly with diabetic patients and passing a four-hour exam are required to obtain a certified diabetes educator's certificate."

Salary: The median annual income for certified diabetes educators in metro Atlanta is $66,828, according to salary.com.