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A day in the life of the Diabetes WA Helpline

KASI KEEFE talks us through a typical day on the Diabetes WA helpline.

What I like about working on the helpline is that it’s always different. No two days are the same. You’re never bored. Even when you can answer someone’s question, it often leads to you learning something new. People living with diabetes are often such experts, that you find yourself with a new idea to research or follow up on. On our busiest days, an educator might take 26 calls. I’ve done 11 so far today and answered a heap of emails.

The questions we get are so varied and unpredictable. Just this morning, I had someone ask if removing their pancreas would cure diabetes (the answer is a definite no). The hardest ones are people who have read about miracle cures or quick fixes online. Sometimes people don’t understand why Facebook will link to things that aren’t true. I try to refer them to Australian websites that are more reliable.

I come in each day with no expectations. Some of the calls are simple ones asking how much sugar is in a product, while others are more complex ones about how to manage insulin doses when they can’t see their GP. Some calls are urgent ones about treating a hypo, which I might escalate to my manager. Some calls are from employers, with pointy questions about legislation and medicals.

Some calls can be quite emotional, because people living with diabetes receive so many mixed messages from different sources. We help them to understand and make sense of the information for themselves.

The most satisfying calls for me are the ones where you have a breakthrough moment – “Oh, I get it now!” Someone who doesn’t understand why their GP isn’t bringing their blood glucose levels down faster, for example. When you can chat with someone and help them understand why their GP has suggested a certain course of action, that’s great.

We can also provide the sort of specialised advice that other health professionals might struggle with. People using insulin – particularly those with type 1 or gestational diabetes – can require very specific support. We can offer that or at least point people in the right direction.

We’ve been supporting West Australians with diabetes for more than 60 years. But what happens when you call us for help?
The Diabetes WA Helpline supports all calls, from general enquires through to detailed questions about medications or blood glucose readings or diabetes technology issues. When you call our 1300 001 880 number, you are put through to our friendly customer service officers in Belmont. They will be glad to help answer any general questions you might have or refer you on to one of our credentialled diabetes educators.

What does a diabetes educator do?
Based in Perth, our diabetes educators are health professionals who have undertaken specialised training that means they are best placed to support you with specific questions about living with diabetes. Our educators also respond to queries received via email, social media questions referred on by our marketing team, web enquiries and walk ins to Subiaco office.

What sort of questions can an educator answer?
West Australians can contact the helpline with absolutely any questions or concerns relating to living with diabetes. The diabetes educator will listen carefully and discuss the issues . They can also point towards further support and information available. Whether it’s people living with diabetes or their family members, friends, carers, support workers and health professionals, the helpline is there to support everyone.

Last year, our Helplinetook 22,000 calls from our 1300 number, while our educators supported 2,500 West Australians.

We also take a large number of calls from women diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM) on topics including:

  • What does it mean, how is my baby affected?
  • Worries about risk of hypoglycaemia and keeping levels in target
  • Receiving conflicting advice from health professionals, wanting clarification
  • Newly diagnosed with GDM – not yet linked in with services, what do I do?
  • Regional GPs and obstetricians wanting information about Diabetes Telehealth Service
  • Questioning GDM diagnosis or the results of the glucose test
  • Worries about not meeting blood glucose targets, what this will mean
  • Not fully grasping concepts, require further information on diet, exercise, stress and what happens in the body with GDM
  • Advice on how to manage GDM and avoid insulin.

If you have a question about diabetes or any of the products and services we offer, get in touch on 1300 001 880.

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