Spotlight on Karen Blekaitis – Facilitator in Michener’s Intensive Insulin Management course

Headshot of Karen BlekaitisKaren Blekaitis is a registered dietitian and a facilitator in the Intensive Insulin Management course at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN (Michener). A graduate of the University of Guelph (Bachelor of Applied Science), she went on to complete her dietetic internship at Hamilton Health Sciences. Her work experience includes a stint at Newmarket’s Southlake Regional Hospital in the medicine program and cardiac rehab, performing homecare, as well as Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, in the cardiovascular ICU and cystic fibrosis units. Since 2012, Karen has been working at Toronto General Hospital’s endocrinology clinic.

Karen first became interested in education in insulin management during her time at Toronto General Hospital. “The dietitians were added to the medical directive shortly after I started working there. However, they did not feel that they met the competencies outlined in the medical directive in order to adjust insulin.” Karen decided to take action; she applied for and was successful in obtaining a grant through a fellowship program at the University Health Network (UHN), allowing her to dedicate time to work on a quality improvement initiative.  “I realized I had a passion for education.”

Over the course of six months, she was able to develop an educational program for dietitians to attain competency in insulin adjustments. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a content re-development for Michener courses, and by 2018 became a facilitator in the Intensive Insulin Management course. “After evaluating my education program with the dietitians at UHN, it was determined that the case studies and discussions were essential in increasing confidence and thus competency in insulin adjustment, and I realized that could be brought to this course.”

When asked what she most looks forward to in this course, Karen says the discussion threads are valuable as they give students the opportunity to provide input and learn from their peers. “It is a very collaborative environment, and I learn a lot from the students too because they bring different perspectives. We have nurses, dietitians, physicians, pharmacists, and it’s great to hear from these different disciplines.”

Learners will also review topics of interests and current case studies. “The case discussions in this course bring more nuance and this allows us to look at situations from different angles. For example, if a patient’s fasting blood sugar is high, the guidelines recommend increasing the basal insulin.  However, if we gather additional blood sugar readings and lifestyle habits, we may discover that the patient is actually going low after a low-carb dinner which results in a large evening snack, and thus a higher fasting blood sugar reading. Increasing the basal insulin may exacerbate this problem.  Examinations such as this provide value for our students.”

Karen recommends this intermediate course to anyone who has a background knowledge of diabetes and insulin. The modules allow for self-learning, and the online discussions are what students find most beneficial. “I’ve had a number of students contact me at the end to say the course has increased their confidence in making adjustments for their patients. Overall, we provide a very supportive and respectful environment online that aims to help our learners improve patient care.”