Many aspiring firefighters ask whether or not they can be a firefighter with diabetes, as there are millions of Americans living with diabetes in some form
Many do so with such ease and control that you wouldn’t know it until they bring out their blood sugar testing kit. There should be no reason why anyone living with the condition can’t enjoy their dream career if they are committed to managing their condition. Yet, there is the assumption that the firefighting profession is out of reach.
So, can I be a firefighter with diabetes?
Yes, you can be a firefighter with diabetes. If you manage your condition with a clear healthcare plan and no recent issues with low blood sugar, there is a great chance that you will make it in the fire service.
The key is showing that the condition doesn’t have any negative impact on your ability to work and carry out your duties. Be honest about your treatment, figure out how to adapt to this career and help to educate departments further.
More and more departments are coming around to the potential of diabetic firefighter and you could be part of the next generation.
In this guide, I want to show you that this career isn’t just possible, but that it can also be beneficial and rewarding with the right approach. I will talk about the criteria used by fire departments when hiring diabetes as well as some of the things you can do while you are on duty.
Diabetes isn’t a disqualifying condition
Some applicants with diabetes assume that they will be turned away because of a few clauses. They know that diabetes isn’t widely accepted within the military and that Type 1 diabetes is listed as a condition that excludes people from the firefighting profession.
However, there are caveats here. It isn’t a straightforward disqualification if you can show that you have your condition under control. If you have an A1C under 8 percent with no more than two episodes of low blood sugar in three years, you might get in.
This shows that you have a manageable condition that is unlikely to hinder your performance.
Even better news for hopeful firefighters is that the attitudes to diabetes within the emergency services are changing. Departments are more open to accepting applications for those with manageable conditions because if a greater understanding of the disease.
Some will still be concerned about the risk of recruits becoming ill and jeopardizing the health and safety of the crew. In the end, it all comes down to the personnel and requirements of the department. They can follow their own guidelines and while some will be fair, others may not.
Improving your chances of becoming hired as a firefighter with diabetes.
There are three things that you can do to improve your chances in the hiring process. The first is to be completely open and honest with the physician during the medical exam. Show them your medical history and the tools you use to monitor your blood sugar. Prove that you have your condition under control.
If the issue is brought up during your firefighter interview, talk about how the condition affects your work ethic and mindset positively. Talk about what you can achieve despite having the disease.
Also, it’s important to perform well on the CPAT or whatever fitness test your department requires. Train for this and read up on what is expected to get the best results.
Managing your diabetes as a firefighter
If you are deemed healthy and capable enough to take on the job as a firefighter with diabetes, you still need to figure out how you are going to manage your condition while you work.
The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you can handle your medication, blood sugar checks and your other duties. There may be an instinct to let your duties come first, especially when you are on duty.
However, if you neglect to monitor your blood sugar or miss an insulin injection then you could put yourself at risk. Some firefighters will change their approach to managing their diabetes and put themselves on an insulin pump instead.
Then, you need to figure out how you are going to protect yourself if you end up with low blood sugar levels when you are on a call. Maintaining the right diet and exercise plan as a firefighter is essential.
Some diabetic firefighters recommend packing some emergency drinks or sweets with their gear to have on-scene. A bottle of Gatorade and a pack of sweets can be a big help.
At the same time, you need to make sure that you aren’t dealing with all this completely on your own. It helps to talk to other firefighters in your crew about your needs and symptoms. Help them to understand what you need to do to protect yourself and they will be more inclined to provide support.
Explain about blood sugar testing, insulin injections and why you have those emergency sweets. Any firefighter that is trained as an EMT should have some idea of how to spot the symptoms of someone in a diabetic emergency, so you should have help around you if the worst happens.
However, if you tell them about your own personal history and limitations this can help further. Working as a firefighter can be good for your diabetes.
One final point that I would like to address is the idea that diabetic firefighters can actually improve their condition in this position.
It might sound strange to tout a job in a dangerous emergency service as an aid for a major illness. But, some candidates have been forced to improve the way they deal with their condition to work in their dream department.
Those that perhaps struggled with injections or fitness as teens find that the training plans and structured schedules help with their fitness and overall health.
This can improve their health generally and minimize symptoms.
Others are motivated to find a better way of controlling their insulin intake and monitoring blood sugar to perform at their best. They will also usually have access to top physicians for annual physicals for professional support.