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How to Become a Diabetes Specialist Nurse

Working together with the DSN Forum, we aim to inspire healthcare professionals to explore and pursue diabetes as a speciality and ensure you have all the information at your fingertips to help you take the next steps.  

There is no one defined pathway to becoming a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN). Many current DSNs have entered the profession by chance, and after finding incredible personal rewards from the profession, have dedicated their careers to caring for people with or affected by diabetes.

Katy Diabetes nurse

Here you can read the career journeys of currently practicing diabetes specialist nurses, at all levels of care. They discuss what inspired them, what steps they took on their career pathway, and five top tips they would give to anyone wishing to follow in their footsteps. 

We’ve also collated a list of events and training opportunities to help you on your way, from short e-learning modules to boost your knowledge and give you a taster of diabetes care, to longer courses and professional qualifications.

Exploring if diabetes is the right specialism for you
Boosting your knowledge
In post
Adapting the competencies to your practice

Exploring if diabetes is the right specialism for you

It can be difficult to know which path to take as you develop in your career, and often a way forward doesn’t become clear until you start exploring new options and make the most of the opportunities that come your way. If you’ve been tempted by diabetes as a specialism, then the following approaches can work well. 

Make the most of your local network

The way to become a DSN is varied, so the more people you ask, the more you learn about the different routes and what is possible. 

Get to know your local diabetes teams. Those working in diabetes are passionate about what they do. They will likely be more than happy to talk to you and give you an insider’s perspective of what it’s like to work in the world of diabetes.  They can help you understand how they got into diabetes, giving you invaluable insight that you can apply to your career. You can find your local diabetes team by contacting your practice nurses and GPs. Most places of work will have some knowledge about their specialist team so check in with your workplace to find the most useful contacts for you.

Get online

Diabetes specialisms have a strong online presence through websites, networks, social media, webinars, podcasts and more. Connecting via social media to relevant networks, key opinion leaders and forums can give insight into the names and teams involved in diabetes care, current hot topics, and training opportunities. See below our list of relevant websites, networks and social media groups you can link in with, and podcasts where you can keep up to date with the latest conversations in diabetes care.  

Social media, blogs and podcasts


Volunteer your time

Once you’ve built your connections with your diabetes team, volunteer with them. They may be able to help you get on local courses and diabetes specialist nurse education days where you can meet the teams. There are differences between clinical settings, such as inpatient and community, and each patient is unique. Shadowing a team member for a day will help you understand the patient relationships, and the rewards and specific challenges that come with the role. 

"This role has opened many doors for me, and we work nationally with key opinion leaders on guidance and as a voice to support other DSNs." - read Beth's story

Boosting your knowledge 

Boosting your diabetes knowledge is a great way to show interest to a potential future employer and evidence to them that you’ve done something in your own time. This can include attending webinars, online learning and study days. Improving your knowledge can also help you in your day-to-day practice, even though you haven’t yet taken the steps towards diabetes as a specialism. It can also be a great way to connect with other DSNs and increase your learning. Keep an eye out for opportunities to be the champion or designated person for diabetes in your team. This can involve taking part in Insulin Safety Week or Hypo Awareness Week

Get involved

By getting involved in campaigns, you’re signalling your interest, gaining experience, and helping people living with diabetes all at the same time. Now that’s multi-tasking. Annual campaigns you can make the most of include Insulin Safety Week and Hypo Awareness Week. A list of upcoming events that you can make the most of can be found here.  

Relevant courses

Check out our list of online learning and short courses covering a range of topics, that will give you a taster of the profession whilst also building your confidence, knowledge and skills to better support people with diabetes. 

"I love helping people. I also love teaching and firmly believe that this is the key to providing good diabetes care.” - read Vicki's story

In post

You’re now in the job. But what can you do now? The first step is to make the most of your induction, as it’s a great opportunity to see and learn as much as possible, helping you to hit the ground running. You can also deepen and consolidate your knowledge with more extensive courses. A selection for you to consider can be found here.

Sponsored courses

There may also be locally sponsored courses you can attend. Check-in with your DSNs about local representative meetings. Making the most of local DSN groups is a great way to connect with peers, share experiences and learn about opportunities you can make the most of. If you have completed an advanced nurse or clinical practitioner pathway, you will have many valuable transferrable skills. To become a diabetes specialist, on-the-job training and short accredited courses can help you make the transition. 

National conferences 

National conferences are a great way to expand your network, enhance your profile and learn more about the latest developments and hot topics in diabetes care. Many now offer remote options for attendance helping you to fit it around your schedule. 


Funding for training or conference attendance can be a challenge. Ask in your trust if funding is available. Alternatively, some pharmaceutical companies do offer sponsorships and bursaries. Other potential routes are listed below. 

Postgraduate qualifications

Take a look at our list of postgraduate training opportunities to help you level up.

Adapting the competencies to your practice

With variation in grades across Trusts and regions, it can be a challenge to understand how best to apply and develop your competencies to through job grades. We’re working on helping you with this, so please keep an eye on this webpage for more information. 

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