CSB/SJU nursing students train to help prevent diabetes

Cori HilsgenFeatured News, St. Joseph0 Comments

by Cori Hilsgen


With the start of a new year, many people are making some new year’s resolutions to get and stay healthier. One of those choices could include some classes being offered in the area with the Diabetes Prevention Program.

Sixty nursing students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University will train in January to be Lifestyle coaches for the “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” prevention program.

Paula Woischke, a healthy-aging coordinator with CentraCare Health System, said more than 20 I CAN Prevent Diabetes workshops will begin Jan. 22 throughout the St. Cloud area.

“We are working on getting the word out about the opportunity and recruiting participants,” she said.

Julie Strelow, associate professor of the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s Nursing Department, said it’s important for nursing students to engage in health promotion and primary prevention. She said the diabetes clinical experience engaged students in activities aimed at promoting health and preventing Type 2 diabetes. The project implemented the use of evidence-based programming as a way to engage nursing students in a longitudinal clinical experience in primary prevention.

“This project provided opportunities for students to gain experience working with the complexities and challenges within the realm of primary prevention,” Strelow said. “Skills related to health-promotion competencies such as communication and collaboration were cultivated.”

Through the partnership with the Central Minnesota Council on Aging, nursing students were trained as Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle coaches. A Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center Master Trainer led the training sessions for the nursing students. The students were then assigned to lead “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” groups in the St. Joseph, St. Cloud and Cold Spring areas. Overall, 18 groups helped residents in these areas. Five of CSB/SJU college campus groups had about 5-7 participants in each group.

Two of the participant groups were remotely located and students used Skype to interact with the participants for their weekly sessions and used telehealth equipment to monitor the weights of the participants.

Matthew Tschida, from Haymarket, Virginia, a St. John’s University junior nursing student, was an aide to a Lifestyle coach in the program. He said he decided to pursue the field of nursing because of the satisfaction he feels when caring and helping individuals as they recover from illnesses.

“The experience was life-changing as I really enjoyed seeing my clients transform and begin to reach for goals,” Tschida said. “Not all clients were successful in reaching the goals of the Diabetes Prevention Program, but there were still lifestyle changes every client began to make while striving for a healthier and more active life. Overall, I CAN was an amazing and vital experience for young healthcare professionals as it really taught me and most of my peers how to interact and communicate with patients more effectively.”

Tschida worked with about a dozen St. Joseph residents and said he would highly recommend the program to anyone looking to change their lifestyle as it’s the most effective direction in leading a healthier lifestyle.

The “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” lifestyle coaching workshop is a yearlong program that meets one hour weekly for 16 weeks, then either once or twice a month for the rest of the year. The goal of the program is for each person to lose 5-7 percent of their weight and increase physical-activity levels.

Research done by the Diabetes Prevention Program in 2002 has shown individuals with pre-diabetes who participate in a lifestyle-based program can reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Two lifestyle changes that can help prevent the illness include losing 5-7 percent of an individual’s body weight through healthy eating and maintaining an average of 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

Participants in the workshops receive support, guidance and encouragement from a trained lifestyle coach or nursing student who is certified by the Center for Disease Control.

The “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” prevention program is an evidence-based lifestyle change program created by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes by collaborating with others in the area to create lifestyle changes.

Topics covered include healthier eating and improving food choices, increasing physical activity, reducing stress, staying motivated, using strategies to maintain weight loss, dining out and social situations, dealing with slip-ups around diet and exercise, and more.

Last year, Woischke (with help from the Central Minnesota Council on Aging) trained and certified 54 CSB/SJU nursing students and six staff to become lifestyle coaches to educate and help prevent Type 2 diabetes in surrounding areas, including St. Joseph, Sartell, Collegeville, Cold Spring, Holdingford, Osakis, Paynesville and St. Cloud.

Woischke said about 86 million Americans are living with pre-diabetes, but 9 out of 10 of these adults do not know they have it because it often has no symptoms. Pre-diabetes is often a precursor to diabetes, but it can be reversed.

Various partners with the program include the Central Minnesota Council on Aging– Juniper Initiative, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University Nursing Department, Stearns County SHIP (a statewide health improvement partnership), CentraCare Health Systems and Faith Community nurses.

“With this program, I have seen participants become more motivated with the help of the group to make healthy lifestyle changes in selection of foods and to also maintain an exercise program,” said Paula Redemske, director of the CentraCare Health Diabetes and Nutrition Center.

Jenni Wald, Stearns County Public Health coordinator, said the Diabetes Prevention Program is a great way for employers to add to their employee wellness programs. Students develop skills related to health promotion and communication and participants receive support from people with the same challenges and goals.

Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties have a workplace wellness collaborative called Tri Wellness at Work where they work with 15 businesses in the three counties and help them grow their employee-wellness programs.

Locations of I CAN workshops include Church of St. Joseph in St. Joseph, Chateau Waters in Sartell, Peace Lutheran Church in Cold Spring, Sacred Heart Church in Sauk Rapids, CentraCare Lifestyle Health Center in the St. Cloud YMCA, Midtown Fitness and more.

Classes will be held at 10 a.m. Mondays beginning Jan. 22 in the Church of St. Joseph Heritage Hall in St. Joseph. To register, contact Marjorie Henkemeyer at 320-363-4588.

To learn more about location, times and registration of the workshops, visit yourjuniper.org or contact Woischke at 320-253-9349.

To learn more about Tri Wellness at Work, contact Jennifer Wald at 320-656-6503.

contributed photo
College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University nursing students from 2017 meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics of a lifestyle coach. The yearlong program helps participants prevent type 2 diabetes by encouraging 5-7 percent weight loss and increasing physical activity levels.

contributed photo
College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University nursing students from 2017 meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics of a lifestyle coach. Sixty nursing students will train in January to be lifestyle coaches for the “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” prevention program.

Author: Cori Hilsgen


Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.

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