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Behind the Scenes | Jigna Jesani & the Diabetes Outreach

Our Local Doctors and White Cross teams are experienced at diagnosing diabetes and helping people with diabetes live well.

If you’re not familiar with diabetes as a long term condition, diabetes happens when your blood sugar levels are too high; that’s because your body can either no longer make the hormone insulin, or can no longer make proper use of the insulin it produces.

If your body does not make insulin at all, this is known as type 1 diabetes. When your body can still make insulin but not enough, or can no longer use it properly, this is known as type 2 diabetes. This is far more common in New Zealand than type 1 diabetes, and with good management, your blood glucose levels may go back down to normal again.

Living with diabetes means regular blood tests, urine tests, monitoring of blood sugar levels and doctors consultations. This can be a challenge to keep up with and take a toll on mental health. Fortunately for our enrolled patients, we have an amazing projects team dedicated to helping guide our long term diabetes patients through their journey.

To raise awareness for World Diabetes Day this year, we spoke to our Diabetes Projects Team member, Jigna Jesani, to see what goes on in the background every day to support our diabetes patients.

“It’s a real process”

Our projects team play a huge role in making sure that our patients with long term conditions like diabetes receive the best care possible. On any given day for Jigna, that means a lot of phone calls and follow-ups.

“In diabetes, I look after patients between the ages of 18 – 74. Normally, we get lists from Dr Mahesh and try to follow up with the patients. We try to make sure diabetes patients get their medication regularly and their sugar levels are maintained. We just try to improve their health, helping with their check-ups and diet as well.

With our elderly patients at home, we get to talk to 30 – 40 people, but for patients who are working through the day, we often have to follow up with them so it’s a lot more calls than that”

It’s not just calls either, often it’s a thorough process from end-to-end, involving sending letters and making sure nothing has been missed.

“In some cases, we find that a blood test form may have been missed, so we try to send [the patient] a recall letter. We give them at least one week to do the blood test, and if they don’t do the blood test, we give the patient a call to remind them. We then advise them to come and see the doctor for a follow-up visit. It’s a real process.”

A long term condition is a long journey to walk

For Jigna, working with patients with long term conditions (as opposed to helping with immunisations or other projects) is a different kettle of fish. For the most part, patients have been on the journey for a while, so they’re happy to receive calls from the team.

The main challenge, is making sure communication is clear – and that’s an empathetic, two-way street.

“Basically, you just need to be patient and willing to explain. Most of the patients are elderly, so it can be hard to pass on the information and some patients might not understand English. So we just have to be slow, patient and kind. You have to be willing to listen and understand what they need from us as well.”

It’s not just about reminding people when lab tests are due either – the team takes a holistic approach to health and always looks to improve patients’ quality of life where they can. As Jigna explains, this has been even more important during lockdown.

“During the lockdown I had a patient I rang to do a blood test, and they told me the labs were closed and they’re bored at home, so they were just eating all of the junk food they could get, so we had to remind them how important it is to maintain a lifestyle with good diet and balance to maintain their sugar levels.

He was good about it and said he was going to try and change things and that it was just a bit upsetting being at home.”

COVID-19 has had a big impact on patients with long term conditions in general, with reluctance to visit clinics preventing patients from getting the best care available. That’s something Jigna and her team look after as well.

“Less people are trying to come in and see the doctor, they just get their prescription and start taking medication instead of having a consultation. So we have to tell them to come in for their long term condition, which has made the process a bit slower.”

Always seek help and make small, manageable changes

Having been a part of Tamaki Health since 2015, Jigna says it’s a combination of helping people daily, the flexibility of the job, and the people in her team that keep her so happy in her role.

“I’ve got a really good project team I work with so I enjoy what I do. It’s a fun team, we enjoy all the functions and holidays and when it’s time to work, we work hard and it’s a good team. Anji, my manager, supports me all of the time and I’m really happy with my job.”

Her one message to patients with diabetes this world diabetes day, is to always seek help and make small, manageable changes.

“I usually tell people to have their blood tests done regularly and if your blood sugar levels change to talk to the doctor. They can do other things like change diet, exercise, go for walks – I try to explain, as well as I can, all the small things we can do to help change their life.”