News | Published April 17, 2014

Quality diabetes care services at Mount Nittany Health

In the United States, 25.8 million people have diabetes, a serious group of diseases that affect the body’s ability to produce or respond properly to insulin.

Every day at Mount Nittany Health, staff and physicians are taking strides to make people healthier by focusing on diabetes prevention, management and education through comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services.

Most recently, Mount Nittany Medical Center received Joint Commission Advanced Certification in Inpatient Diabetes. Through diligent planning, collaboration and dedication, the prestigious Gold Seal of Approval™ was awarded.

Mount Nittany Medical Center is only the third acute care facility in the state to have achieved this impressive advanced certification, and one of only about 70 facilities in the country. According to Jan Ulbrecht, MD, endocrinology, Mount Nittany Physician Group, one out of every five patients admitted to the Medical Center has diabetes. While the Joint Commission certification certainly shows that the Medical Center is advancing the quality of care for those with diabetes, diabetes has long been a top priority.

In 2006, a core group of nurses with an interest in helping to improve care for patients with diabetes began attending regular educational trainings regarding diabetes care. These mentors now act as a valuable resource for their colleagues and patients.

“The nurse mentors are involved with developing policies, helping to plan competency fairs, relaying education to their coworkers, as well as volunteering for community diabetes events,” said Amy Leffard, RN, certified diabetes educator, Mount Nittany Health Diabetes Network. “Since they have, in fact, become the go-to expert in diabetes for their units, all qualified mentors wear a pin to signify to other staff that they can be approached regarding any diabetes question or situation.”

In addition to the nurse mentor program, Medical Center pharmacists implemented a highly progressive glycemic (blood sugar) control program in 2011. According to Kristin Thelen, PharmD, Mount Nittany Medical Center, the glycemic control program began as a service for monitoring hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the intensive care unit (ICU) and providing treatment recommendations to providers. Providers have the option of consulting pharmacy for “glycemic control,” allowing the pharmacist to write orders for changes in medications directly related to controlling blood glucose. 

Since the program’s inception, the consult service has now grown hospital-wide. In addition, there has been a statistically significant drop in average blood sugar in the ICU, resulting in decreased ICU readmissions, decreased complications and deaths, and an overall decrease in total hospital length of stay.

While the Joint Commission certification, nurse mentor program, and the glycemic pharmacist program all focus on hospital-based care, there is also a strong commitment to excellence in outpatient care at the diabetes clinic at Mount Nittany Physician Group Endocrinology.

A multidisciplinary care team, led by board-certified endocrinologist Dr. Ulbrecht, staffs the diabetes clinic. The team includes a physician assistant, nurse practitioners, dietitians and certified diabetes educators. Focusing on individualized care for patients with diabetes and their families, the team approach allows for comprehensive treatment planning that supports patients in all aspects of living with diabetes. The team at the diabetes clinic provides the latest in evidence-based care leading to better outcomes for their patients.

In 2011 and again in 2013, clinicians at the diabetes clinic received National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) Diabetes Disease Recognition, joining an elite group of clinicians across the country who share this distinction. To qualify for the honor, Dr. Ulbrecht, Barbara Purdum, CRNP and Susan Trainor, CRNP submitted data that demonstrated evidence of quality care leading to improved outcomes in blood sugar control, blood pressure control, cholesterol control, smoking cessation advice/treatment, foot exams, eye exams and assessment for kidney disease for their patients.  

“It’s not just about the quality of care we deliver, it’s ultimately about the quality of our patients’ lives,” said Trainor. “We focus not just on taking care of diabetes today, but doing all we can to help prevent the progression of diabetes and diabetes complications.”

For more information about Mount Nittany Health diabetes services, visit

Back row, from left to right: Stanislav Zayets, MD, hospitalist, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Judy Pfleegor, P.T., C.Ped., director, Diabetes Foot Clinic; Jeri Bell, RN, clinical supervisor, medical oncology, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Susan Foster, MS, BSN, RN-BC, director, education, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Jan Ulbrecht, MD, medical director, endocrinology, Mount Nittany Physician Group; Amy Leffard, RN, CDE, Diabetes Network; Karen Peachey, RN, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Nini Thomas, MD, internal medicine, Geisinger Medical Group. Front row, from left to right: Sheila Moscone, RN, progressisve care unit, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Cheri Woll, RN, BS, CCM, case management, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Heather Harpster, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, Diabetes Network; Kristin Thelen, PharmD, pharmacy diabetes program director, Mount Nittany Medical Center.  Not pictured: John Coppes, MD, internal medicine, Geisinger Medical Group; Stephen Tingley, MD, chief medical information officer, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Joyce Walls, director, information services, Mount Nittany Medical Center; Kristy Koelle, RD, LDN, CDE, CSG, nutrition & culinary services, Mount Nittany Medical Center.