JDRF, a Truly Type 1-Friendly Workplace

A summer intern describes the experience of working at a place where everyone understands diabetes.



The majority of people without Type 1 don’t understand the stress of counting carbs, the nausea of waking up with a blood sugar of 315 mg/dL, or the joy of stumbling around with a blood sugar of 45 mg/dL. Perhaps the only people who truly grasp how it feels may be others who are living with Type 1.

This can be especially true in the workplace. I have worked at jobs where people are completely unaware of what Type 1 is, so I give them the basic facts and tell them what to do if I need help. Generally, I tell them not to worry.

But I end up worrying about a lot of things. Like what if I wake up with a blood sugar of 45 mg/dL and it won’t come up in time for me to drive to work? Do I call in sick? Do I tell my boss I’ll be late because of my blood sugars and hope she understands? People with Type 1 want to be seen as capable, but we also want to know that the unpredictable daily ups and downs of the disease will be met with grace and understanding.

This past summer I had the pleasure of working as a Communications Intern in JDRF’s National Headquarters in New York City. Not only did I get to be part of an organization that is passionate about my condition, but I was also given the rare chance to work alongside a number of other adults living with Type 1.

This shared personal experience helped create a safe, understanding workplace for me this summer. Twice my supervisor let me come in late, once when I was low and once when I was high. This allowed me to make sure I was safe and feeling well before hopping on the subway. There was one day this summer when my blood sugars just did not want to come above 70, and my low supplies at work were exhausted. A co-worker with Type 1 happily let me reach into her stash. It is also comforting to have peers who understand Type 1 shop talk. The three of us in the Communications Department who live with Type 1 would often share stories of overnight lows, nauseating highs, and rollercoaster days that just don’t want to stop.

These little acts of understanding can make all the difference when you’re dealing with Type 1. It would be nice to live in a world where every workplace was Type 1-friendly, but until that goal can be achieved, I will treasure my experience with JDRF, a workplace where diabetes was spoken fluently.

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Amy Ford is a junior at Malone University studying Community & Public Health Promotion. She hopes to help those with Type 1 diabetes to manage the condition and promote Type 1 diabetes awareness in the public. She is a recent JDRF National Communications intern, and blogs at https://diabeterrific.wordpress.com when she isn't busy studying for school, devouring novels, drinking tea, or watching lots of episodes of Gilmore Girls.