A Volunteer Story – Pat Adams

Our series continues with another leader from American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). Patricia Adams, RN, CDE, Program Coordinator for the Gutman Diabetes Institute, Einstein Medical Center has been a diabetes educator and a member of AADE for nine years.  What’s the greatest benefit of her involvement with AADE? Pat says it’s…

My interaction with other educators. I will always tell you that I have learned more from meeting with other educators than I have from reading any textbook.

Pat’s involvement in AADE came under the auspices of her department director and mentor, an AADE volunteer both locally and nationally. As with many first time volunteers, Pat become involved at the local level first, serving as her chapter’s membership chair and newsletter editor. What she never envisioned was that she would eventually take an active role at the state level as well. Then again, Pat wasn’t aware that not only was change coming, but that she would be one of its greatest advocates.

In 2010 AADE took a bold step and eliminated the chapter model in exchange for a membership affiliation model. With the old model, Pennsylvania had five independent chapters. The new model unified the state into Local Networking Groups (LNGs), and brought diabetes educators together in a more cohesive way through a centralized resource called the MY AADE Network. State Coordinating Bodies (SCBs) support the LNGs while National supports the SCBs.  Pat was on the transition team from the beginning believing that the changes were long overdue. But she also realized that in order for the whole model to work, the MY AADE Network had to be strong. So in addition to her board duties, she became the technology team leader of Pennsylvania’s MY AADE Network page.

Now that the model is full swing, Pat serves as a representative for her LNG in southeastern Pennsylvania, and starting in 2012, as the SCB Chair for Pennsylvania.

Pat embraced the transition because she believed that there had to be a better way to assist diabetes educators with their professional and personal growth. “Going into the future, something had to change, the structure needed to change. We needed to embrace the technology to keep members engaged. I watched it in my own area, with my own colleagues – they’re young women with children. They don’t have time for these dinner meetings, the old way of doing things. So we had to engage people electronically.”

The transition was not easy at first, but Pat was undaunted. Whenever she encountered skeptics, she posed this question: “What is our job? Our job is to help people living with Diabetes learn to change.” It didn’t make sense then that diabetes educators couldn’t embrace change as well. To ease the transition, she began interacting one-on-one within her own LNG first, taking advantage of each opportunity to encourage enthusiasm by explaining how the new model would help the diabetes educator.

Then she extended her reach. When a colleague was finding resistance in her LNG group, Pat took the opportunity during a dinner meeting with the group to explain the network. She signed onto the Internet, brought up the network page, and talked about how it worked. After the meeting, several subscriptions in the state discussion area doubled. She wasn’t saying anything different than AADE, but now members were hearing it from someone who worked in the trenches with them. “As much as AADE has tried to train (people), I think having the membership hearing from another educator helped it click.”

Pat has always been passionate about volunteering, and these passions extend beyond AADE. Currently, she is involved with the Grey Hound Adoptions of Florida (NE chapter), and Citizens Against Grey Hound Racing in Pennsylvania. A past board member of the Citizens Against Grey Hound Racing, Pat now serves as an ad hoc volunteer, helping whenever needed. As she puts it, she is currently a “Joe Schmo” volunteer – a label that by no means diminishes her work.

Each volunteer experience, Pat finds, enhances her work with the others. What she learns from AADE, especially through its leadership development, helps her with her rescue groups.  And working with her rescue groups has helped her see the full picture of what she believes AADE wants to accomplish with the My AADE Network. What’s more, Pat met her husband through volunteering – proof that you never know what will happen when you volunteer.

Another challenge Pat does face is getting others to see the benefits of volunteerism. Whether it’s to help rescue greyhounds or to volunteer with AADE, time commitment is always an obstacle. During a recent AADE leadership conference, one speaker stressed that the organization and the volunteer experience needs to be of value to members in order to keep them engaged. After all, there is only so much time a person has. Pat believes it helps to ask a few people to take on a few smaller jobs rather than asking one person to take on one big job. This way volunteers don’t feel so overwhelmed and would be more willing to help in the future.

Making a difference, in all of her volunteer hats, is what keeps Pat keep going. Her volunteering continues to offer her deep satisfaction because she knows she is doing what’s right and what’s needed to help each organization be successful.

How does Pat do it all? She offers one last piece of advice expressed in a recent email from a colleague: “Stress is a choice. Prioritize what you want because it is important, not just because it’s there.” In other words, don’t do something because it “lands on your plate”; do it because you believe in it.

For Pat, it’s helping diabetes educators and rescuing greyhounds.