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Ellen: A Day in the Life

A day in the life of Ellen McDonagh, a Diabetes Educator within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. 

Ellen McDonagh with informational leaflets.

Ellen McDonagh is a Diabetes Educator within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. In her role, she delivers two structured educational programmes: DAFNE for people with type 1 diabetes and DESMOND for people with type 2 diabetes.

What it involves

My role involves the delivery of two educational programmes to support those living with type 1 and type 2 diabetesDAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) is a course for adults (over 17 years old) and DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed). These programmes aim to support people in understanding their diabetes and empower them to manage it. For people living with type 1 diabetes, DAFNE also shares learning on how to make adjustments to insulin when needed – it also links in on the areas of managing hypoglycaemia, illness and exercise.

My working day usually begins arriving at the place we’re presenting about one hour before people begin to arrive. This allows time to prepare the room, equipment, and myself so that I can meet people and focus on them. This is my favourite time of the day as it sets the tone for the day, and I’m given the privilege of getting to know a little more about the participants themselves, as well as their diabetes, in a relaxed way.

My typical day has changed slightly over the last few years in that during pre-pandemic times, the programmes were delivered face-to-face in a group setting. During the pandemic, we learnt how to adapt programme delivery for online sessions instead. Now we’re in a position to offer a choice of face-to-face or online delivery, which means my day-to-day routines can vary! I really enjoy my work facilitating learning and meeting people even now on the online programmes, which I struggled with initially as it was a totally new way of interacting with people.

The delivery of both the structured education programmes (DAFNE AND DESMOND) require two facilitators to work together. I find this a valuable tool in creating a balanced, interactive, and relaxed day for the participants while promoting peer learning. Participants are also offered the opportunity to continue their learning when the course finishes by registering for MyDESMOND or DAFNE online which we can help them with.

My job as a Diabetes Educator also requires a lot of administrative and promotional work throughout the Trust and other organisations. I also have to keep up to date with mandatory training and the world of diabetes by attending professional development programs, readings and working with the diabetes teams.


What matters to me most in my role as Diabetes Educator is that the people who attend feel empowered to manage their diabetes. To aid this it’s important that, as part of their diabetes care, all people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are referred to and able to attend this structured education resource that can have a real impact on their lifestyle and management of their diabetes.

What matters to me most in my role as Diabetes Educator is that the people who attend feel empowered to manage their diabetes.

We endeavour to make each day about each person’s needs, and I think we achieve this when people share their experiences, concerns, and solutions openly. Additionally, almost every day during breaks, lunch or after each course is finished, my colleagues and I will be approached by participants who want to discuss private matters related to their lives with diabetes.

For type 1 educational support, I would encourage people to ask their healthcare professional if they are suitable to be referred to DAFNE. For type 2 and to self-refer to DESMOND within the Northern Health and Social care Trust, phone 028 2766 1478 or email

Reflect on you and your needs

For anyone wishing to access either of the two educational programmes please be assured that structured education is facilitated in a relaxed way. Before you come, I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on the following points:

  • Ask yourself why you want to learn about managing your diabetes.   
  • Congratulate yourself on the areas you feel you manage your diabetes well.
  • Think about any challenges you experience with diabetes self-management.
  • Consider what hinders you from having control over your challenges.
  • Decide upon what you want to achieve from having attended DESMOND or DAFNE.

On a personal note: what advice would you give yourself if you were starting out now in your first job?

You have chosen a great profession where your support makes a difference in people’s lives.

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The views and opinions expressed in the ‘views’ section of this website belong solely to the authors of each article. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diabetes UK as a charity or any of its staff members.

If you are a healthcare professional based in Northern Ireland and would like to write for News & Views, please get in touch with with an outline of your idea.








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