Qatar Diabetes Association provides regular training and ongoing support to school nurses
It is common for parents of children with diabetes to worry whether the school – and teachers – can provide the necessary physical and mental support, as those with the disease need special attention and care.
Within the QF schools, we provide an integrated plan to promote the health of students with diabetes, and this plan includes all those working in the school
At Qatar Foundation (QF) schools, children with diabetes, and those at risk of developing the condition, are a priority, with regular training sessions and workshops hosted by the schools to ensure the highest possible care is provided to the students.
Josephine Bou Akar, a nurse at the Early Education Center, Qatar Academy Doha (QAD), part of QF’s Pre-University Education, says: “Within the QF schools, we provide an integrated plan to promote the health of students with diabetes, and this plan includes all those working in the school, including administrators, educators, nurses, and even those in the canteen.
“Every day, when a student with diabetes arrives at school, we check their blood sugar levels. We also constantly monitor the symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia especially before a meal and before, during, and after physical activity.
“We make sure that the student eats a light meal between classes, before any activity that requires physical effort to prevent complications,” Bou Akar explains.
Type 1 diabetes – a multifactorial disease with a strong genetic component – is by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β cells. Children with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections every day to regulate blood sugar levels. And, according to Bou Akar, it is on the rise in Qatar and all around the world, along with type 2 diabetes which is caused by unhealthy lifestyles and poor eating habits.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness, which can lead to serious complications affecting people’s lives and wellbeing.
She adds that QF schools also focus on students who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, monitoring continuously for symptoms and collaborating with parents to delay or prevent the onset of the condition.
Trying to get information from parents about whether someone in their families has a history of diabetes can be challenging, with parents refusing to acknowledging it
“The most important of these symptoms are the frequent urination, lethargy, increase in appetite, and being thirstier than usual.
“Once these are identified, we speak to the parents about the child's sleeping and eating habits, and whether there has been a drop in their weight or a change in their behavior. We also ask about the family’s medical history, and if there are any cases of diabetes, to know the extent of the child's susceptibility,” she adds.
Social stigma is one of the challenges that nurses face in schools, as some families withhold necessary information about the presence of diabetes in the family.
“We try to get as much information as possible from parents – about whether someone in their immediate or extended families has a history of diabetes. But this can be challenging, with parents refusing to provide information, or even acknowledging it,” she says.
The training provided by the QDA is an important tool in enhancing the skills of nurses in schools
In order to manage the condition, those who have diabetes should lead healthy lifestyles and seek medical advice. Preventive measures are also important to avoid or delay developing type 2 diabetes, and this is a focus at QF schools, through various activities and health awareness campaigns.
In previous years, before COVID-19, activities included taking students to supermarkets and asking them to select heathy food items, such as fruit and vegetables, and then teaching them how to create healthy meals with these ingredients. “We actively involve them, helping to develop a culture of healthy eating within the classroom, which is then a culture they took home with them,” she says.
“We also organize agricultural activities, where we grow vegetables ourselves. And, as well as including daily physical activity at school, we also encourage children to move through music.”
Additionally, each year, Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) – a member of QF – organizes courses for nurses at QF schools, including workshops on how to support children with diabetes, as well as monitoring symptoms among to students to ensure early detection, and new technologies.
Other courses include learning how to avoid high and low blood sugar levels – and how to treat these – as well as teaching relevant staff about the insulin system and how to adjust the doses of medication. The training courses also highlight the importance of nutrition and cover the procedures that should be followed during and after exercise.
By developing our skills and collaborating with parents, we strive to ensure that every child with diabetes has the best chance of participating safely in all school activities
“When parents send their children with diabetes to school, they trust that the school nurses will be able to provide maximum care to their children,” says Katherine Balili, another nurse at QAD, “The training provided by the QDA is an important tool in enhancing the skills of nurses in schools.
“QDA has provided us with the skills, training, and support necessary to provide optimal care for these students, which in turn had enabled us to improve student awareness of diabetes and how to recognize it and live with the condition.
“As nurses, we benefit a lot from these courses – they help us keep up to date with everything new. By developing our skills, and collaborating with parents, we strive to ensure that every child with diabetes has the best chance of staying in school and participating safely in all school activities,” Balili concludes.