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01-12-2017 | Research | Uitgave 1/2017 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2017

Diabetes educator role boundaries in Australia: a documentary analysis

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2017
Olivia King, Susan Nancarrow, Sandra Grace, Alan Borthwick
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13047-017-0210-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Diabetes educators provide self-management education for people living with diabetes to promote optimal health and wellbeing. Their national association is the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA), established in 1981. In Australia the diabetes educator workforce is a diverse, interdisciplinary entity, with nurses, podiatrists, dietitians and several other health professional groups recognised by ADEA as providers of diabetes education. Historically nurses have filled the diabetes educator role and anecdotally, nurses are perceived to have wider scope of practice when undertaking the diabetes educator role than the other professions eligible to practise diabetes education. The nature of the interprofessional role boundaries and differing scopes of practice of diabetes educators of various primary disciplines are poorly understood. Informed by a documentary analysis, this historical review explores the interprofessional evolution of the diabetes educator workforce in Australia and describes the major drivers shaping the role boundaries of diabetes educators from 1981 until 2017.


This documentary analysis was undertaken in the form of a literature review. STARLITE framework guided the searches for grey and peer reviewed literature. A timeline featuring the key events and changes in the diabetes educator workforce was developed. The timeline was analysed and emerging themes were identified as the major drivers of change within this faction of the health workforce.


This historical review illustrates that there have been drivers at the macro, meso and micro levels which reflect and are reflected by the interprofessional role boundaries in the diabetes educator workforce. The most influential drivers of the interprofessional evolution of the diabetes educator workforce occurred at the macro level and can be broadly categorised according to three major influences: the advent of non-medical prescribing; the expansion of the Medicare Benefits Schedule to include rebates for allied health services; and the competency movement.


This analysis illustrates the gradual movement of the diabetes educator workforce from a nursing dominant entity, with an emphasis on interprofessional role boundaries, to an interdisciplinary body, in which role flexibility is encouraged. There is however, recent evidence of role boundary delineation at the meso and micro levels.

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