How to become a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)?

What a relief to pass my CDE exam again! I am now a certified diabetes educator for another 5 years. When I wrote my last exam five years ago, all costs and expenses were paid for by my previous employer. I had no idea how much everything would add up. This time around, I have to pay everything up front, hoping the amount will be fully or partially reimbursed by the Allied Health Professional Development Fund. Here’s a brief account of my financial investment as well as some thoughts around the journey.

Below is a list of items that I have paid to prepare for the certification exam:

  • The Canadian Diabetes Educator Certification Board – Exam Fee: $450
  • References that I have purchased:
    • Building Competency in Diabetes Education: The Essential: $275
    • Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Practice Guidelines: $12.50
      • Total (include shipping and taxes):  327.27
  • Saint Elizabeth Canadian Diabetes Educator Virtual Study Group: $275

Total Amount: $1052.27

I consider it essential to maintain my credential for Canadian Diabetes Educator (CDE). I look after many complex diabetic patients. The practice guidelines for diabetes change all the time and there is a constant need to keep up with emerging new drug therapies and innovative treatment approaches.  If you are interested to become a CDE, check out their official website here.

While there are different ways to prepare for the exam, here are few of my personal tips if you are planning on obtain your credential for Canadian Diabetes Educator:

1.Purchase the reference:  Building Competency in Diabetes Education: The Essential

Buying the reference Building Competency in Diabetes: The Essential is important. The reference includes many important topics that are being evaluated at the exam.  Here’s a glimpse of the Table of Contents in the 4th Edition:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Foundations for Diabetes Self-Management Education
  • Chapter 3: Pathophysiology
  • Chapter 4: Changes Across the Lifespan
  • Chapter 5: Treatment Modalities: Lifestyle
  • Chapter 6: Treatment Modalities: Pharmacological Therapies
  • Chapter 7: Monitoring
  • Chapter 8: Acute Complications of Diabetes
  • Chapter 9: Chronic Complications
  • Chapter 10: Gestation Diabetes
  • Chapter 11: Self-Management Education and Teaching / Learning Practice
  • Chapter 12: Intensive Insulin Therapy

Throughout each chapter, there are exercises and questions to help consolidate the understanding of the material. But the most important part is the Evaluation of learning – which consists of 100 multiple choice questions to help simulate the exam environment where various level of competencies in diabetes knowledge can be tested.  There may be another edition coming out. So I suggest purchasing the latest edition of this reference only after one has committed to writing the exam in the upcoming year.

2. Become familiar with the latest Practice Guidelines and online resources from Diabetes Canada

Many of the exam questions will be based on the practice guidelines as well as any resources and tools developed by Diabetes Canada. I will pay attention to the key messages and recommendations in each  section of the practice guidelines. Simply by knowing the guidelines have at least helped me scored a few more points on the exam. The online resources from Diabetes Canada are also important to review. Many exam questions are based on these resources. Particularly, everyone needs to review the resources on  Beyond the Basics on carbohydrate counting.

3. Join a Study Group

If you are disciplined and have a well thought out study plan, you can probably be successful with your CDE exam by just following my above two tips.  However if you are working full time, have a life and other commitments, you may want to join a study group to help motivate you and keep you on track with your study. This year, I have decided to join Saint Elizabeth Canadian Diabetes Educator Virtual Study Group.  The session ran from Jan 31 to May 31, 2017. Each week was dedicated to a specific topic with all the required or recommended readings all listed in one area to review.  In addition, there was an hour long webinar every Tuesday by an expert speaker. If I could not make it to the webinars on Tuesdays, the sessions were recorded and archived for accessing at a later time 24/7.  For more information of this study group, please click here.

Here’s a look at the 18 week schedule from this year’s study group:

  • Week 1 (Jan 31) – Kick Off Session
  • Week 2 (Feb 7) – Learning & Diabetes Self Management Education
  • Week 3 (Feb 14) – Pathophysiology
  • Week 4 (Feb 21) – Nutrition Therapy – Part I
  • Week 5 (Feb 28) – Psychosocial and Mental Health
  • Week 6 (Mar 7) – Nutrition therapy – Part II
  • Week 7 (Mar 14) – Nephropathy
  • Week 8 (Mar 21) – Pharmacological Treatment – Part I
  • Week 9 (Mar 28) – Pharmacological Treatment – Part II
  • Week 10 (Apr 4) – Insulin Therapy
  • Week 11 (Apr 11) – Insulin Pump Therapy
  • Week 12 (Apr 18) – Reading Week
  • Week 13 (Apr 25) – Diabetes in Pregnancy
  • Week 14 (May 2) – Children & Adolescents
  • Week 15 (May 9) – Foot Care, Neuropathy, Diabetes Foot Ulcer
  • Week 16 (May 16) – Aboriginal Issues and Retinopathy
  • Week 17 (May 23) – 2 hour review session
  • Week 18 (May 30) – Post Exam Reflection

Each week was well thought out and set up so that the participants had all the relevant resources to review the material. The weekly webinar lectures also contained the most essential material. I have found that reviewing the webinar each week helped me to keep track of my learning. For weeks where I felt I did not know the material as well, I would spend more time going over the recommended readings.  The speakers were generally excellent. In particular, the speakers for nutritional therapy (Sondra Sherman, RD), for pharmacological treatments (Brenda Bruinooge, RPh – and former colleague!) as well as for insulin therapy (Dr. Alice Cheng, Endocrinologist) were excellent.  One area I wished they could have focused more was on how to do insulin adjustment.  The webinar by Dr. Alice Cheng was excellent in terms of reviewing the various types of insulins, their unique pharmacokinetic parameters and how they are prescribed in different settings. However, it would have been great to go over options to do insulin adjustments in different scenarios. It is a bit of fine art when it comes to insulin adjustment but this is an area where most pharmacists would like to gain more experience in. I also wish the study group would devote more opportunities to review multiple choice questions. I think many people would benefit from it.

Overall, the study group has helped me to prepare for the CDE exam and I would highly recommend it to others who are considering to write the exam in the future.

4. Study with the Exam Competencies in mind.

Finally, it is important to study with a good understanding of the various competencies being evaluated. In the exam handbook, there is a section that details the various competencies and their competency groups according to their relative importance and frequency in day-to-day practice. The main competencies are as follow:

  1. Pathophysiology
  2. Nutrition
  3. Self Care Management
  4. Psychosocial & Lifestyle
  5. Special Situations
  6. Education Theory

Finally, to become a certified diabetes educator does require a financial investment as well as time and energy over at least 3-4 months to study and go over all the essential information to prepare for the exam. If you are considering becoming a certified diabetes educator, I hope you find this post helpful.



Published by


My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permission. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s