Pediatric Diabetes Education motivates nurse practitioner


This year, the Endocrinology Center at Children’s again received  high scores in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings of pediatric specialties.

Advance Nurse Practitioner Jim Penn talks about what the U.S. News & World Report ranking means and why he’s proud to work at Children’s. Jim started work at Children’s in 2001 in the ICU. In 2004, he moved to the role of patient educator, and in 2007 became a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator.

Q: What made you decide to enter pediatric diabetes education?

JP: I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 6, and I have an older brother who was diagnosed before me when he was 5. I’ve had it for 31 years, and he’s had it for 33 years. My diabetes educator in the hospital was Barb Schreiner. She’s the whole reason I chose this field. She inspired me.

That first interaction I had with her got me excited to learn about diabetes. In my perspective as a 6-year-old, it wasn’t scary at all. She let me follow her around to the lab, and so it was a fun time for me.

Q: How do you approach educating patients and families about diabetes?

JP: I tell them I have diabetes. Most of them have heard something, if not everything, negative about diabetes.

And for the families, it’s not easy to hear that their child has diabetes and that they have to turn everything upside down. They need to hear that you can live a long healthy life with diabetes as long as you take care of yourself, so it’s not the end of the world.

Q: What kind of things do you teach the kids?

JP: The challenge is that they know they need to take their shots and they need to take their blood sugar test, but what’s the purpose of all that? They test their blood sugar and it’s almost like a grade, but that’s not how I want them to look at it.

Because you can do all this stuff by the book, measure everything and count carbs, and your blood sugar could be high or low, based on stress or other factors. I tell the kids to try not to look at their blood sugar reading as a grade. It’s just a direction. Do we need to go this way or that way?

What Affects Blood Sugar Levels?
Things that can make blood glucose rise:
• A carb-heavy meal or snack
• Inactivity
• Stress
Things that can make blood glucose fall:
• A meal or snack with fewer carbs than usual
• Extra activity
• Missing a meal or snack
Source: American Diabetes Association

Q: What drew you to Children’s?

JP: What brought me to Children’s is their orientation in ICU. I enjoyed the resources they provided us as new grads in ICU.

The doctors are very approachable, and if we have questions, they’re going to explain it to us in a way that’s going to help us understand and improve our knowledge.

Even in another clinic, if I call another nurse practitioner, they’re open to explaining something. Sometimes we’re afraid to ask questions because we think, “Oh, that’s a dumb question.” Well, no, it’s not, and someone else probably has the same question. And no one here makes you feel silly about asking.

 Q: What do you feel the recognition from U.S. News & World Report means for our employees and patient families?

JP: I enjoy coming to work. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have tough days. This type of recognition validates that hard work that we’re doing.

I think it’s also a confidence builder for families who might be looking for a place to bring their children to know that we’re doing what the national guidelines say.

U.S. News & World Report
Diabetes & Endocrinology
Reputation with specialists “significant”
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedResponding specialists in 2011, 2012 and 2013 named Children’s Medical Center Dallas among the best for their most difficult cases in Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Infection Prevention of Measures
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedRanked “high” for success in avoiding infections through hand hygiene, vaccination and other proven measures.
Advanced Clinical Services
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedScored the most in this category, which includes providing remote access to medical records, certified diabetes educators and diabetes education programs.

Q: How do you describe your job when you meet someone for the first time?

JP: I tell them as a nurse practitioner, patients see the doctor one visit and then see me for a 30-minute appointment on their next visit. My visit is more focused on pediatric diabetes education, so hopefully, when they go back to see the doctor, I’ve answered a lot of their questions.

I also work with children at risk for diabetes. We had one patient in the COACH (Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health) program who cut out soft drinks and junk food and lost 50 pounds. That will significantly reduce or delay his chances of getting diabetes.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

JP: Helping the kids, of course, but also, I have a very supportive wife. She married me knowing I have diabetes. I’ve had diabetes for 31 years, so there’s not a lot anyone can do to help me with it, because I can do my own shots and test my own sugar, but she’s very helpful by counting the carbs when she cooks dinner. That’s one less thing I have to do. That helps me to stay on top of my diabetes.

And if I’m willing to talk about my diabetes, I’ve got to be willing to answer any questions, so that’s another motivation. There are ups and downs to diabetes, and that motivates me to stay on top of it, too.


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2 Responses to Pediatric Diabetes Education motivates nurse practitioner

  1. Julie September 24, 2013 at 9:36 am #


    You make life better for every person fortunate enough to spend time with you – as a patient – or a colleague. Thank you for always being willing to contribute your time and expertise to our research projects. Your amazing attitude is contagious!

  2. Marsha September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am #


    You rock! I am so thankful we have your expertise and personal experience to help our kids optimzie their glycemic control. Thanks for all you do!

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