Living with diabetes blog

Tips for managing diabetes at work

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. July 16, 2013

When you were first diagnosed with diabetes, you were probably told by your doctor or diabetes educator to eat your meals around the same time each day, check your blood sugar at certain times, and get regular exercise and consistent sleep. But what if you work a rotating shift and your hours may be all over the clock?

You might work 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 hours shifts varying days a week. Throw in some overtime and you may forget what day of the week it is, let alone remember whether or not you have taken your diabetes medication when you should have.

It might be more difficult for people with type I diabetes to work different shifts than a person with type 2 diabetes, but there a few oral diabetes medications (sulfonylureas that stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin) that can cause you to have a low blood sugar.

Here are some tips to managing diabetes at work:

  • Speak with your physician or diabetes educator on how to manage your diet, exercise, medication, and self-monitoring at work.
  • Keep a detailed paper record — record meals, activities, sleep, work hours, medications, and blood sugar. This will help you spot blood sugar patterns so that you will be able to make adjustments as needed.
  • Always bring your blood sugar meter with you. Check your blood sugar a few times during the shift to see if you need to raise or lower your blood sugar readings if you are on insulin. You may need to make changes to your diet and medication for each shift that you work.
  • Let your supervisor know what your needs are to allow time to take a break to check your blood sugar or to eat a snack.
  • Carry a planned snack for every shift in order to maintain your blood sugar. Bring along an extra snack in case your blood sugar drops.
  • Match your medications to your meals. Taking your medication regardless of when you eat can lead to swings in blood sugar levels and low blood sugars. Talk to your doctor if you are having swings in blood sugars (highs and lows). He or she may consider switching you to long-acting insulin or extended release medication.
  • If you are physically active at work be aware of the effect of physical activity on your blood sugar. Physical activity means that your blood sugar is absorbed more quickly and you may experience a low blood sugar and you may need to adjust your eating schedule accordingly.

By being prepared you'll be set to go. We look forward to hearing your experiences and tips.


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July 16, 2013