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Vicki: My career journey to become a Diabetes Specialist Nurse

Vicki Alabraba, Education & Research Associate and Diabetes Specialist Nurse at Leicester Diabetes Centre shares her career journey, the rewards of her roles and tips for those considering a career in diabetes.  

Two roles

I have two roles. I’m an education and research associate and diabetes specialist nurse. 

Firstly, I work within the Eden team (Effective Diabetes Education Now), which is an NHS education team based at the Leicester Diabetes Centre. This includes writing, developing and delivering, diabetes education and training to primary care healthcare professionals. I am also involved in transformation projects and research studies. 

My second role is working as a diabetes specialist nurse within general practice, and I’m the second diabetes lead for the practice. The practice provides an enhanced model of care for diabetes as part of a local transformation of diabetes services.

Diabetes specialist nurse Victoria Alabraba

No looking back

In 2005 after being a qualified nurse for three years working on a regional liver transplant and hepatobiliary surgical unit, I was lucky enough to secure a secondment as a diabetes sister, within the diabetes team in the same trust. This was initially a 12-month secondment, but 19 years later I am still a diabetes specialist nurse! My interest in diabetes developed soon after I qualified as a registered nurse.

Making the most of opportunities

Firstly, I became the diabetes link nurse for the ward which then opened up the opportunity to do the diabetes nursing course at the local university. This was a degree-level module and ran over 6 months. Here I met the course lead and nurse lecturer who was also a diabetes specialist nurse, and she really encouraged me to publish my assignment on post-transplant diabetes following liver transplantation. I think she could see my interest and passion and I was keen to try and move into diabetes nursing so we kept in touch, and she let me know when any potential jobs might be on the horizon for me to apply for! Eventually, about 12 months later a secondment post was advertised, and I applied and was appointed as a F grade diabetes sister. I worked within the diabetes team for 3.5 years in which time I was able to complete my non-medical prescribing course and then was promoted to a band 7 DSN.

Developing my role

It’s the last three to four years that have been the most exciting so far. Now that my children are more self-sufficient, it has allowed me to dedicate time outside of my day job and to be more involved in national opportunities. 
In 2020 I won the QiC Diabetes award for diabetes healthcare professional of the year after nomination from my colleagues. In 2020 I also joined the DSN Forum UK as one of the leadership committee members. I became part of the voluntary Diabetes 101 team, that was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support people living with diabetes. In 2021, the Diabetes 101 team won two QiC awards for their work. 
In 2022 I completed my MSc in Diabetes Practice with a Distinction and won two awards for the highest dissertation mark and highest overall mark. 

In 2023, the DSN Forum UK hosted their first-ever conference, designed by diabetes specialist nurses for diabetes specialist nurses (DSN). We welcomed 200 DSNs to a whole day dedicated to them, their learning and recognising their worth.
I have also been recently elected as a Primary Care Diabetes Society (PCDS) committee member.


I think I’m quite lucky with the two roles I have currently. There aren’t many problematic challenges that I encounter on a day-to-day basis – which is great. However, I have met challenges over the years. One of the main ones is that more and more responsibility is put on senior specialist nurses as we progress and become more experienced, and we often don’t get recognised for this in banding or pay progression. Another is ongoing career progression. I climbed the bands fairly quickly but once reaching the top of the band 7 scale, I’ve been a bit stuck. 

Currently, for me, the only way to progress above a band 7 is to take on a managerial or team lead responsibility, or become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) in a more general medical setting. This is not really something I want to pursue at this current time as it would take me away from my clinical diabetes work, which I love. 

I love helping people. The world of diabetes never stands still, it’s a very fast-paced and ever-changing speciality which makes it all the more important to make sure we keep up to date.

"I love helping people. I also love teaching and firmly believe that this is the key to providing good diabetes care.”

Top tips

My first top tip is to show your passion, get involved in anything and everything that you feel you have time for, this may also include time outside of your day job. Secondly, make links with your local diabetes team and get to know them, ask if you can observe some of their clinics to gain some experience and show willingness. Thirdly, if you don’t have the opportunity for diabetes training and education in your current job, do some online training. There are lots of free online resources that you can do, to add to your CPD hours. Attend webinars when you can and try and attend study days. Fourthly, if you can secure funding, aim to do an accredited course in diabetes and work toward an MSc in Diabetes. It will definitely benefit you in the longer term and will certainly help with future career progression.
Last but by no means least, follow the DSN Forum UK at, across social media and listen to our podcasts to stay up to date with all the latest diabetes news! 

You can follow Vicki on (X, formerly Twitter) at @VickiaDSN and follow DSN Forum at @DSNforumUK

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