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University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center program educates young adults with diabetes

Monday November 5, 2012
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Susan McLaughlin, RN
When Peggy Hasenauer, RN, MS, was hired six years ago as executive director of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center, one of her first jobs was to find ways Kovler could serve populations that might otherwise be overlooked.

Hasenauer knew right where to start.

With the cooperation of Louis H. Philipson, MD, PhD, FACP, director of Kovler and a professor of medicine, the InTransit program was created to serve as a clinical care and education program for adolescents, teens and young adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Hasenauer hired dietician Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE, to oversee the program.

"What I learned in my experience over the years is that this adolescent, teen and young adult population often gets lost in the shuffle," Hasenauer said. "Oftentimes, they’re in a pediatric diabetes practice with baby toys in the waiting room. They’re not necessarily ready to see an adult endocrinologist, but they’re definitely not interested in being in a peds clinic anymore.

"People need to start having hard conversations with them about peer pressure, drug use, managing blood sugars, critical thinking, so these kids have a set of skills, knowledge and ability to make thoughtful, good decisions about their healthcare before they go off to college and even in their early 20s."

With the InTransit program, patients see a variety of specialists each time they visit. Diabetes Clinical Nurse Educator Susan McLaughlin, RN, BSN, CDE, has seen most of the patients in the InTransit program in her four years at Kovler.


Peggy Hasenauer, RN
McLaughlin said the program has group clinic visits where they’ll see the diabetes educator first for an hour or 45 minutes before seeing psychology fellows and then the doctor.

"A lot of times, these kids might be relying on their parents for carbohydrate counting and reminding them to bolus and reminding them to change their [injection] sites," McLaughlin said. "[We are] just gradually moving them toward being self-reliant."

Among her work before coming to Kovler, Hasenauer took care of kidney and pancreas transplant patients for five years.

She estimated as many as 40% of the kidney patients and all of the pancreas patients who she worked with received transplants because of diabetes. The more she looked, the more diabetes she saw, and that got her interested in diabetes care.

Now, she finds herself navigating young diabetes patients through the system at Kovler.

"That experience as a nurse has been pivotal to help me understand what I can do for these kids to make sure they don’t need a kidney transplant when they’re 35," Hasenauer said.

"It’s been a really great job, and at the end of the day, I’m so proud I’m a nurse."

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.


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