Q: Our 10-year-old has made it clear that he wants to join the military when he grows up and be just like his dad. I’m all for encouraging his dreams, but are careers like joining the military or becoming a police officer realistic choices for someone with type 1 diabetes? I don't want him to be disappointed.
A: This is not an easy answer to relay, but unfortunately, type 1 diabetes is currently considered one of the medical conditions that prohibit service in the U.S. military. The underlying reason for this is concern that during active duty combat, someone with diabetes could be put in peril if insulin were not available, which is not only personally detrimental, but is something that could put their unit or squadron at risk.
So, that’s the bad news, but there’s better news when it comes to becoming a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic. Many towns and cities do welcome people with diabetes to serve in these types of first responder positions, as long as they meet standard physical requirements and other job prerequisites.
Many policies concerning diabetes vary on a city-by-city basis, which means you may need to do some digging to find out the hiring policies followed by police forces in your local area. You may also want to learn more about what the American Diabetes Association is doing to create nationwide hiring standards for qualified law enforcement officers with diabetes. You can learn more about the work they’re doing here.
Now, does your son need to know all this? While it’s up to you how much you want to share right now concerning military restrictions and potential challenges with finding law enforcement work, what may be most important is letting him know that his desire to protect and serve others in his choice of work is an admirable one. It’s also something that can be carried out through a variety of exciting and fulfilling career options. For suggestions, touch base with your diabetes educator who can likely point you in the direction of many helpful job resources.
--Debra Counts, M.D., is chief of the division of pediatric endocrinology, associate professor of pediatrics, and associate chair of clinical affairs for the department of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
How Other Parents Deal
“Our 14-year old son really wants to be a police officer, and from what our certified diabetes educator has helped us find out, here in New York State, the condition is examined on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a candidate is medically and physically capable of performing the duties of the job. We have all been very honest with our son about this -- that there are no guarantees, but if he really wants a shot at making this happen, he will need to take excellent care of his health and his diabetes. I am pleased to say that he has really risen to the challenge. At this rate, I have few doubts about his dream becoming a reality.”
--Tiffany B., Rochester, N.Y., mom of 14-year-old Nathan
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