Endocrine nurses work in a professional nursing specialization that is seeing an increased patient population with endocrine-related conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, or hormonal conditions.
Minority Nurse recently caught up with Laura Cheng BSN-RN, a board member of the Endocrine Nurses Society, whose goal is to advance the standards of endocrine nursing practice, education, and research. Cheng is a graduate student at the Duke University School of Nursing with a dual enrollment in the Family Nurse Practitioner and Endocrinology Specialty Certificate program. And Cheng also has the unique perspective of being both an endocrine nurse and an endocrine patient.
Please tell me a little about your background and how you decided to take a nursing career path.
Throughout my life journey, I have come to believe that our experiences as we develop play a pivotal role in shaping the path we choose for ourselves and that includes our career. Upon graduating high school, I encountered this critical juncture in deciding the next step in life. At that point in time, a career in nursing was not on my mind. However, important and life-altering events occurred that eventually led me to set my sights on becoming a nurse. I also hold the viewpoint that life is perfectly imperfect, in the most beautiful way because of this! Life’s twists and turns would pave my way towards a rewarding career as a nurse.
In 2012, I received a diagnosis of a rare endocrine disorder known as Acromegaly and had to learn how to grapple with the complexities of a rare hormonal condition, in addition to caring for my twins who I had given birth to a year prior. A few months after my diagnosis, I underwent surgical resection of the pituitary tumor that was causing havoc on my endocrine system. While hospitalized, I received exceptional care and support from the nursing staff. This experience is what fueled me to pursue nursing as a career, so that I could help other individuals going through a difficult condition or disorder.
In 2017, I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in North Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
What was your introduction to endocrine nursing and why did it appeal to you?
Many nursing students often have a particular specialty or area of nursing in mind that captivates their interest. The intricacies and complexity of the endocrine system, the interplay of hormones on other body systems, and my own endocrine disorder is what makes endocrinology so appealing to me as an individual.
After completing a year and a few months on a medical surgical unit as a new graduate nurse, I transferred to the endocrine department. I dedicated five years of my career to the endocrinology division, specifically working in outpatient clinics. My professional journey has taken another turn, as I am now primarily focused on pursuing further education with the ultimate goal to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse in endocrinology, where I can continue my passion for providing exceptional care to patients in this specialized field.
What is the nursing skill you use the most and how do you continue to sharpen those skills?
The skill most utilized in my practice is providing comprehensive and patient-centered education. A few examples of this include medication management (for example administration or explaining side effects), blood sugar self-monitoring, and symptom recognition (for example hypoglycemia). In addition, having a caring and compassionate approach while supplying the patient with the skills and tools necessary to self-manage their chronic condition is another important ability to possess. It’s important that the patients feel supported throughout their journey, and the nursing model empowers us to aid the patient in a holistic manner.
How does technology help patient care in endocrine nursing and do you see advances?
Advancements in technology intersect with the world of endocrinology in many aspects. Whether it’s through the use of insulin pumps with integrated algorithms or the utilization of smart phones with applications that can monitor blood sugar levels continuously, technology is a crucial component towards the management of diabetes mellitus. A prime example of how technology impacts patient care is through remote patient monitoring of glucose logs. Newer technologies continue to develop every year! In addition, the pandemic gave rise to the utilization of telehealth visits (video and telephone) and altered our capacity to reach our high-risk patient populations during the height of COVID-19.
Are there any exciting changes in the field that are helping nurses or patients (or both)?
The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will be implemented within our practice will be interesting to see as time progresses. There are studies examining the use of AI technologies to identify or recognize rare endocrine disorders such as Acromegaly by use of facial images. Research such as this can have a profound impact on patients and their long-term health outcomes.
What would you like anyone considering this nursing specialty to know about endocrine nursing?
Endocrinology as a specialty offers a rewarding career path with many opportunities. It allows you to actively make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients. The complexities and challenges of managing endocrine disorders aids in the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The field also requires life-long learning as many advances come to fruition. You’ll also have the opportunity to work in various settings whether that be inpatient or outpatient (for example primary care setting or endocrine clinic). One opportunity to highlight is the possibility of becoming a certified diabetes care and education Specialist after completing necessary requirements.
How does endocrine nursing give you opportunities to work directly with patients or with other healthcare team members?
The endocrine specialty requires a diverse set of team members and necessitates interdisciplinary collaboration, so you will be awarded the ability to collaborate with others such as registered dieticians, certified diabetes care and education specialists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical doctors, and social workers (as well as those in other specialties such as nephrology and cardiology).
As an endocrine nurse, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to work with patients who have adrenal disorders (Cushing/Addison’s, thyroid disorders, bone disorders (Osteoporosis), Diabetes Mellitus, Acromegaly, PCOs, Hypogonadism, and much more!
There are also many organizations that you can join to engage and network with others in the field such as the Endocrine Society, Endocrine Nursing Society, American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.