Paediatric Diabetes Specialist Nurse London North West University Healthcare Trust Northwick Park Hospital
Specialist paediatric nurses play a crucial role in offering support and reassurance to children and their families who are struggling to come to terms with a diabetes diagnosis.
Catriona Hurley, Paediatric Diabetes Specialist Nurse at Northwick Park Hospital, in Harrow, Middlesex, never ceases to be amazed by the resilience and fortitude of young people living with diabetes and their families.
“Diabetes Nurses and Paediatric Diabetes Specialist Teams should acknowledge how wonderfully they do,” insists Catriona, who supported Maddie Wills and her family in the early days of Maddie’s diagnosis.
“Diabetes is not a visible condition — look at someone living with diabetes and you wouldn’t know they have it — but to achieve wellness they have to do a lot of work. Families like the Wills’ should look at all they have accomplished. They should be very proud of themselves.”
Which is not to say that specialist nurses like Catriona don’t guide families through dark and difficult times. They absolutely do.
Catriona is part of a multidisciplinary team at Northwick Park caring for children with the condition — and the support that she and her colleagues give children and parents is essential.
“Families are often shocked by the diagnosis,” she says. “Parents may experience feelings of guilt or worry that their child’s diabetes is down to something they did or didn’t do, which, of course, is not the case at all. They may experience grief at the loss of their old way of life — and fear, too, because there’s a lot of new information to take in.”
Diabetes is not a visible condition — look at someone living with diabetes and you wouldn’t know they have it — but to achieve wellness they have to do a lot of work.
Specialist medical professionals offering support and advice
More often than not, parents of a newly diagnosed child are confused about the disease or have misconceptions about it.
Specialist nurses are there to enlighten and reassure them.
“If you don’t have experience of diabetes, you may think it’s a quick fix or easy to manage,” says Catriona. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
“Type 1 diabetes is complex, and managing it requires a level of literacy and numeracy. Parents worry about their capacity to deal with the situation and, when they start to read more about it, have concerns about its potential acute and long-term complications.”
Thankfully, there are Specialists Paediatric Diabetes Teams like Catriona’s across the UK.
“As nurses, we support children with diabetes and their families and let them know that they can always reach out to us if they have worries, day or night,” she explains.
“They are not alone and will always have someone to turn to.”