Student Article Series

Diabetes: The Role of Allied Health Professionals

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition typically associated with high levels of sugar/glucose in the blood. This could happen either because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or because the cells of the body don’t respond appropriately to insulin, or both.


  1. Type 1 Diabetes: This type occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to survive.
  2. Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes often occurring in adults. Lately, it is increasingly diagnosed in children and adolescents. In this form of diabetes, the cells of the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, and eventually, the pancreas may not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity contribute significantly to its development.

Uncontrolled diabetes tends to serious health issues such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss, and nerve damage, among others. Diabetes is typically managed by a combination of medication, lifestyle changes like adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise and also monitoring blood sugar levels.

AHP’s working with Diabetics and their roles

  1. Dietitians – Dietitians are responsible for providing personalized nutrition plans, education, and counselling to help patients manage their diabetes by monitoring their diet.
  2. Podiatrists – Individuals with diabetes carry the risk of neuropathy or nerve damage alongside poor circulation which can often cause foot ulcers and infections. Podiatrists are responsible for educating patients and assessing and treating these conditions as well as helping in preventing them.
  3. Physiotherapists – Physiotherapists are responsible for helping patients maintain personalized physical activity levels by developing exercise programs. Physiotherapists also see individuals with diabetes after acute issues they may be having, such as after a stroke or vascular surgery to help them regain their movement and independence. Physiotherapists are also useful in finding injuries such as neuropathy as this can often cause a patient to not know if they are injured.
  4. Occupational therapists – Occupational therapists are responsible for building independence when it comes to managing daily activities that diabetic patients may need more assistance for due to differing and unique disabilities. They develop strategies and provide adaptive equipment with the goal of overcoming limitations, improving self-care, and enhancing the overall quality of life.
  5. Orthotists – These AHP’s specialize in producing custom made orthotics like insoles, braces, and footwear that tailor to individual patient needs. Orthotics are made to help mitigate issues such as pressure points on feet and help to enhance stability, and prevent deformities or ulcers caused by neuropathy or poor circulation.

Allied health professionals, nurses, and doctors work collaboratively in delivering a holistic approach to improving diabetes care with the aim of improving individual patient outcomes and quality of life.

What is Diabetes?

We met with Siddharth Israni, Physiotherapy Student at Bradford University, to discuss his role in Diabetes.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in allied health, and how has your journey been so far?

When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional footballer. I actually managed to clear a trial at a local club on my first try. Then abruptly I got a knee injury which changed everything. I tore my ACL and meniscus. For eight months I walked with a limp. I was told that I would need surgery and underwent physiotherapy in the meantime. Against all odds I recovered completely without any surgical intervention, I could run and play football again and do everything that I could do before my injury. In those moments I realized that I found a new calling. I was convinced that I wanted to help people reclaim their strength instead, in the form of a physiotherapist. My newfound clarity has propelled me ever since to study a masters in physiotherapy.


Can you describe a typical day working with diabetic patients in your role as an allied health professional?

As a student physio I have had the opportunity to work in the vascular ward where we saw many diabetic patients who had just undergone a surgery to help improve blood flow to their limbs and sometimes even amputations. We saw around 6-9 patients daily. I felt immensely satisfied due to the multifaceted nature of the role.

We also saw patients in a well-equipped gym in which we helped amputees mobilize using prosthetic limbs. Oftentimes I felt like there was a blur between work and enjoyment, mainly because the role was so diverse with its responsibilities and my colleagues while experienced and knowledgeable, were very fun to be around. As an allied health professional, it’s very easy to foster professional relationships that can be meaningful.

Each interaction I saw or had with patients was used as an opportunity to infuse hope and strength into their lives

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working with diabetic patients as an allied health professional?

It’s really the simple things. Making a difference. Our role as allied health professionals can often extend beyond treatment. For example, it’s about upholding the dignity of our patients, being empathetic and listening to them, not just being sympathetic, inspiring them to embrace their full potential. Each interaction I saw or had with patients was used as an opportunity to infuse hope and strength into their lives.

The pride my parents have in me along the genuine well-wishes from patients further strengthens my resolve. These things are an obvious reward, aren’t they?

I extend my heart to those who are battling diabetes where daily hardships like insulin injections or weekly dialysis are the norm. Sometimes, just a word of encouragement or physical progress can brighten their day.

I believe that small yet impactful moments like this is what truly makes material success worthwhile. To know that you play a part in alleviating someone’s burden is naturally a good feeling to have. Small aspects like this contribute towards leaving behind a legacy of kindness and strength.


Can you share a memorable success story or moment from your experience working with diabetic patients?

 There are many, but I will share one that left a lasting mark on my heart. On the first day of my vascular placement, I overheard the multidisciplinary team discussing the need for a language interpreter for an elderly woman. As it turns out, I speak the exact same language as her! I ecstatically volunteered to step in as a translator between the patient and medical staff with no idea of the gravity of the situation I just placed myself in.

It turned out that the lady was potentially facing an above-knee amputation due to severe complications from diabetes which had severely restricted blood flow to her leg. The patient faced risk of tissue death which could lead to lethal infections. To convey this news to the patient was definitely one of the most daunting experiences I have ever had.

However, throughout placement I was given the privilege of treating the patient due to our shared language. By the end of the placement, not only was the patient walking with walking sticks, but was independent with her movements. The credit goes to her resilience and determination, as she surpassed her limitations when her leg healed, and she was walking on both feet!

In my final week I sensed that she was a bit saddened about her condition. Gently, I reminded her of the immense progress she had made. She began to gradually open up about her fears and uncertainties. I realized then that she wanted someone to listen to her, because sometimes that’s just what people need. As she tearfully expressed her gratitude, taking my hand and thanking me for being there both mentally and physically, I was profoundly moved.

It will always be difficult to truly articulate what I felt in that moment, but I hope it’s enough to convey the profound impact that we as allied health professionals can have.

To know that you play a part in alleviating someone’s burden is naturally a good feeling to have. Small aspects like this contribute towards leaving behind a legacy of kindness and strength

What skills and qualities do you believe are essential for someone entering a career in allied health, especially when working with diabetic patients?

In my opinion, I think perseverance is the most important quality. It’s about being relentless when it comes to self-improvement, both mentally and physically. This important because, as allied health professionals we must lead by example. Perseverance also goes a long way towards continuous learning which I think is something a potential allied health professional should be ready for. It’s important to also know that most continuous learning will be from profound experiences rather than exams.

Empathy is also another important quality. When a person is empathetic, it naturally makes them a better listener regardless of their personality type. A little decision-making skill is also valuable as allied health professionals are responsible for people’s quality of life.


What advice would you give to someone considering a career in allied health, particularly in the context of working with diabetic patients?

Well, the Aspiring Allies website has a helpful quiz that is designed to match individuals with the most suitable allied health profession based on their personality traits, strengths, and qualities. Taking this quiz can definitely be a good starting point when considering a potential career in allied health.

Also, many teaching trusts and hospitals offer opportunities for college or school students to shadow various allied healthcare professionals. Consulting with academic counselors and researching university requirements can aid selection of subjects to study as well when profession is narrowed down.



References – 

Anon (n.d.) Diabetes and psychological care. Accessed.

Anon (2021) How a Multidisciplinary Allied Health Team Can Help People Manage Diabetes. Accessed.

Diabetes UK (2022) Diabetes: the Basics. DIABETES UK Accessed.

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