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Paula Dunlop

Paula Dunlop Site engineer

Be Inspired Series

Florence Findlay White

National Care Advisor
Diabetes UK Northern Ireland

What does your job entail?
My role at Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has several elements. I am the primary link between Diabetes UK and healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland and I sit on several steering groups and networks with multi-disciplinary teams involved in diabetes care.

I am the main contact for all calls that come in through Careline, Diabetes UK’s telephone advice line, which involves giving practical and emotional advice to people who have diabetes and signposting them to useful information and support sources.

I also help callers to understand and negotiate the health service, something which can be quite daunting for people not involved in this sector. I arrange diabetes awareness presentations and training for people involved in caring professions and I deliver and promote structured diabetes education which is something I’m very passionate about as it is so valuable to people with diabetes.

I work closely with the team involved in delivering Diabetes UK’s campaigns in Northern Ireland and my input would be from a health perspective. We will be launching a children’s campaign this week which aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes and improve outcomes for children and young people living with the condition.

Is it 9-5?
It’s mainly 9-5 but I would do occasional evening and weekend work- particularly when meeting with healthcare professionals as very often it is difficult for them to schedule meetings during the day due to patient appointments, for instance.

How did you get into this line of work?

I trained as a nurse, specialising in general and psychiatric nursing and health visiting, and I spent time working as a ward sister back in Glasgow. But I actually got into diabetes a bit by accident after seeing a job advertised! 

Outline your career to date?
After working for several years as a ward sister, I took a career break for a year while my children were still small and it was during this time that I applied for a job as a diabetes specialist nurse.

Within a few weeks of starting the job I was hooked as I realised what a complex condition diabetes was, particularly the psychological side to it.

I spent the next 20 years working as a diabetes specialist nurse in Glasgow and then moved to Northern Ireland where I began my current role. I had spent such a long time working in the NHS in Scotland, and wanted a new challenge.

I had previously been involved in a project to implement structured diabetes education and I really liked the idea of a more project- orientated role within diabetes.

Tell us about your qualifications/training

I trained as a nurse and also have a post graduate diploma in counselling and a master of philosophy in research which focused on the experiences of people with Type 1 diabetes and empowerment.

What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?
Professionally, you need a good understanding of how the health service works and how multi-disciplinary teams operate. On a personal level good people skills and enthusiasm are key as networking and meeting people are a big part of the job. Empathy and discretion are also very important as often I deal with sensitive cases where people can be distressed or finding it difficult to manage their diabetes.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?

Resistance or obstacles to change can sometimes be a challenge and sometimes projects can take a long time to produce outcomes. But the challenges are worthwhile when you know you’ve made a difference to someone on a one-to-one call or helped someone to better understand their diabetes. I also find being part of a collaborative team very rewarding, especially when different parties come together to produce a positive solution.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to exercise and spend a lot of time running. I’m currently training for the 2013 London Marathon which I’m running for Diabetes UK. I also love to travel and it’s my aim to visit every continent.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro and I sang in the English chamber choir which backed the orchestral version of the rock opera, Tommy, by the Who.

Who has inspired you most in your life?
Professor Bob Anderson from the University of Michigan for all the work he has done in relation to patient- centred care in diabetes.

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