Diabetes can start off as a silent disease. Imperceptibly affecting the pancreas and allowing sugar to accumulate in the blood, it can wreak havoc on the body, damaging blood vessels and increasing the risk for heart disease, vision and nerve problems, and lead to other serious health issues.
According to the CDC, more than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes – and that’s where our pharmacists come in. With approximately 78 percent of the U.S. population living within 5 miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade, we’re in a unique position to help those newly diagnosed and living with diabetes navigate their condition. Through a special training program, Walgreens is empowering pharmacists around the country to help patients better understand their medications, testing supplies and daily routines – and in doing so, help to increase medication adherence, close gaps in care and lower longer-term healthcare costs.
In honor of American Diabetes Month in November, Walgreens News spoke with Danielle Soriano Hambrick, a Walgreens pharmacy manager in Chicago, to see how this training helps her better care for patients with diabetes every day.
Walgreens News: Why is a training like this important for community pharmacists?
Hambrick: We covered diabetes a lot in pharmacy school, but this new training was a good refresher because I speak with a couple of diabetes patients, if not more, every day. We talk about how they are going to take the medications, whether it should be with or without food, what kind of side effects they can expect from the medications and what steps they can take to help minimize those side effects. The training helps me address all these questions.
WN: It seems like there’s a lot of different information to understand about diabetes. Could you share a few things about this condition?
Hambrick: Diabetes impairs a basic function of our body – the ability to store sugar in our cells. When our bodies can’t store sugar in various cells to use as energy, that extra sugar flowing through our blood vessels damages our organs and can lead to a number of health problems.
Another good thing to be aware of is the different types of diabetes, such as type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin – the hormone that manages our blood sugar levels – and there is no known way to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes is when the body can’t use insulin properly. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by working with your healthcare provider on healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy and being active.
Watch Danielle (Soriano) Hambrick share information on managing insulin and blood sugar:
WN: Did anything surprise you during the training?
Hambrick: Yes, a large part of it was actually focused on the mental health of the patient. In pharmacy school, we talked about how to help those who are newly diagnosed navigate taking their medications, making changes to their diet and starting new exercise routines. Things like that are going to be a big change for anyone, but when you're combining all of this at the same time it's a lot for anyone. And so as pharmacists, we need to make sure the patient is doing OK and is able to acclimate to the changes, and remind them that we're here to support them.
One thing in the training that I really hadn't thought too much about was the ongoing effects of the disease. Depending on the person, it’s hard to tell how long it’s going to take for them to get used to the changes. And then on top of that, with diabetes, sometimes your numbers might be really great and then sometimes, no matter what you're doing, you can't get your blood glucose levels where you want them, which is super frustrating because you're doing all these things and you're not seeing the results you want. So I made a little mental note to myself for those who have lived with this condition for a while to start the conversation asking, “How are you doing?,” and talk about their lives, not just about their medications and diet. We want them to know they can talk to their pharmacist about the ongoing stress of managing this disease.
WN: What would you share with someone who is living with diabetes or cares for someone living with diabetes about how Walgreens can help?
Hambrick: I want people to know that pharmacists are here to help you. If you are comfortable talking to us about your health, we can be an important part of your whole healthcare team. For example, pharmacists can work with those living with diabetes to make sure you’re scheduling certain health screenings since you can be at greater risk for problems with your feet, vision, heart and kidneys. Pharmacists can also help you keep your vaccinations up-to-date so you can avoid getting sick from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Diabetes, even when it’s well-managed, can make it harder for your immune system to fight infections, so you may be at risk for more serious complications from an illness compared to people without diabetes.
And then, of course, when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, I'm totally here as a cheerleader to help people as much as I can.
WN: Why is helping people living with diabetes important to you, personally?
Hambrick: When I was young, I remember how many complications my grandfather had from his diabetes. So if I can encourage the patient’s family and support system to understand that the person is going through a lot, but this is going to be a journey that the whole family embarks on together – especially when we're talking about trying to change someone’s diet and make time for exercise – maybe it can make a difference. It’s really good when those living with this condition are shown that they have a team supporting them versus carrying the burden on their own. They can help one another through this journey.
Customers may speak with our pharmacists about how to manage their diabetes whether they’re in store, over the phone or via Pharmacy Chat, which is available online or through the Walgreens app.