Today for World Diabetes Day, we are celebrating the work of Ranjeeta Ranjani Devi, the Team Leader for the Diabetes Eye Clinic onsite at the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI) in Fiji.
Diabetes eye disease (or diabetic retinopathy) is a complication of diabetes that affects the back of the eye. If left untreated, it can lead to deterioration of vision and ultimately, blindness. Although uncommon a generation ago in most Pacific populations, the prevalence of diabetes has increased dramatically in recent years, and with it the need for quality eye care services.
This means that Ranjeeta and her team have a huge task ahead of them. Ranjeeta kindly took a few moments out of her day to tell us about the Diabetes Eye Clinic, the challenges they are facing now and what the future might look like.
- Where are you from and what inspired you to work in health care?
I am originally from Labasa on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of the Fiji archipelago. Currently, I am living in Suva. My mum who did domestic duties always wanted to see me as a nurse, so I chose this as my career to ensure that I had an education and worked hard to be financially independent.
My father ran a small shop to ensure me and my siblings have a good education. My father paid for my nursing school also, for which I am forever grateful.
Being a nurse has helped me build myself as a better person both at workplace and at home. Patience, compassion and care are some of the traits one acquires as part of the job. I would love to grow further in this field and be able to use my knowledge in my everyday life. I have been working for the Pacific Eye Institute for the past 8 years.
- What is the Diabetes Eye Clinic and what is your role?
The Diabetes Eye Clinic is a clinic that runs five days a week. It includes a photo clinic, doctor’s clinic, laser and retina clinic. We also have an outreach program where we make 68 trips each year to provide eye care services around the central division.
As a Team Leader, I coordinate the setup and delivery of the PEI diabetes eye health services in Suva and the outreach program. I also take retinal photographs, grade and refer patients accordingly.
The clinic also delivers a teaching programme for nurses in diabetes eye care. As Team Leader, I ensure our services accommodates the training needs of the students, community health workers, and nurses assigned to the clinic.
- What are some challenges you and your team face?
Seeing how the patients coming in are getting younger now. The youngest patient with type 1 diabetes was 9 years old and for type 2 diabetes, patients can range from 25 years and above. Also, the number of patients that need diabetes eye services can be overwhelming sometimes. Sometimes it’s difficult to accommodate patients on the same day since we have a full clinics and we are seeing patients to our maximum capacity.
- What does the future of diabetes eye care looks like?
Our services will still be catering for more people as we may not have reached our threshold yet. I feel there is more to be done, with increasing number of diabetes patients in Fiji and the Pacific. I believe there are a lot of people in the periphery that are in denial of their condition. We need to reach out to these people and also increase our diabetes eye care services to the village level.
- What should everyone know about how to manage diabetes eye disease?
- Get regular eye check-ups. This is the best way to detect any problems early on. Make sure you attend any follow up appointments, too.
- Don’t wait for your vision to deteriorate. Patients are only able to notice significant changes in their vision during later stages of the disease when the condition has deteriorated significantly.
- Look after your health. Take your medication, focus on healthy eating and try to exercise for 30 minutes every day. Managing your diabetes will help you to manage your vision.