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Alumni Profile: Heidi Button

  By Reagan McNameeKing
  Wednesday, July 18, 2018

From Diabetes Patient to Educator

Heidi Button '10N continues to challenge expectations in new role helping others manage chronic diseases

“If somebody had said to me in high school that I would be a nurse, first of all, I would have laughed,” said Heidi Button ’10N. “And then I would have said, ‘No way!’”

But over the years, Button has made a habit of defying expectations, both personally and professionally. After receiving a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 6, she went on to play sports competitively throughout high school and is now an avid cyclist. Button grew up learning skills to self-manage the condition but didn’t picture herself helping other people with diabetes. She enrolled at Ithaca College with the goal of becoming an athletic trainer. But after two years, it didn’t feel like the right fit, and Button transitioned into a community health education program.

Heidi Button

“That was when it spoke to me,” Button said. “I realized I needed to do something with diabetes.”

Button set a new goal of becoming a certified diabetes educator. The certification requires licensing in an accepted discipline such as nursing, psychology, or social work, along with two years of professional experience in the field.

“Nursing is what was going to take me there,” said Button, an alumna of the Accelerated Bachelor’s Program for Non-Nurses (ABPNN), “I chose the University of Rochester School of Nursing because I had already been in school for four years and I wanted to become a nurse as soon as possible. I immediately knew that it was where I wanted to go to nursing school.”

While studying at the School of Nursing, Button learned about the many opportunities in the field beyond the role of the bedside care provider, she said. Now, Button is blazing trails as a leader in diabetes care.

Button joined the staff at Highland Hospital on the general medicine unit immediately after completing the ABPNN in 2010. In her seven years on the unit, she went on to complete a master’s degree and became a clinical nurse specialist, then proposed that the hospital create a diabetes clinical nurse specialist (CNS) position.

Button leads Highland’s diabetes resource team comprising a nursing representative from every unit. As a CNS, Button is providing the frontline staff with crucial knowledge needed to care for patients with complex diseases.

Button hopes to improve outcomes for all patients with the condition.

“I love the hospital setting, but I noticed an overall gap of knowledge related to the care of patients with diabetes in the health care system,” said Button. “As an advanced practice nurse, I can work with the system as a whole, with the individual nurse, and with the individual patient in any way possible to try to improve outcomes.

“In a health care setting, patients get labeled with this term of non-compliance and non-adherence. To me, that's so frustrating because sometimes the patients don't have everything they need to be compliant. “It's a disease that takes so much to manage properly. I always ask myself, has this patient been given the knowledge, resources, or access to those resources to self-manage their disease? I feel it's important to transfer every piece of knowledge that I have to somebody else, because we cannot assume they have been given the needed education.”

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