“If we are to achieve a richer culture, we must weave one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” – Margaret Meade
For millions of people, these words are not only powerful and inspirational, but what they are working to achieve each day—an aspiring reality for the people they directly care for, support, and sacrifice for. These people are Direct Support Professionals, and they are needed now more than ever!
One could make the argument that Direct Support Professionals are some of the most overly needed yet undervalued individuals in the health and human services field. A typical job description lists requirements such as patience, compassion, and commitment to helping others. To say their responsibility is great and their challenges are frequent is an understatement. Not just anyone can excel in this career, and these professionals are not in it for a cushy salary, or for fame and glory. Simply put, a person working as a Direct Support Professional does the work because they truly want to. They have a passion for helping others, and they are working towards a long term goal that is greater than themselves.
The Biggest Goal and the Biggest Challenge
When working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Direct Support Professionals often deal with stressful situations, challenging behaviors, and experiences that can be flat out heartbreaking. Yet, despite the challenges, being a Direct Support Professional can be one of the most rewarding professions you’ll ever find, and the demand for them increases every year!
One thing that the Direct Support Professional (DSP), the client (or participant), and the family (or support network) have in common is a goal—for the participant to be a fully contributing and valued member of their community and society as a whole. We have certainly come a long way throughout the last century in achieving this goal, with the help of federal regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), but we still have a tough journey ahead of us. One of the biggest challenges in completing this journey is meeting the high and ever-growing demand for quality DSPs.
Why is this challenge so hard to meet?
According to the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, an estimated one million new DSP positions will need to be filled by the year 2022 in the United States alone. This should be great news! …But why can’t we meet the demand? There simply aren’t enough DSPs out there.
Tackling the Turnover
In a profession where you are dealing with human lives, and not just numbers and figures, each day can be entirely different than the last, bringing a whole new set of challenges with it. Direct Support Professional, Christina Reddix, tells us that the biggest challenge she’s faced throughout her five years in this role is “adapting to the [participant’s] different moods and abilities.” Each DSP’s job will be different with each participant they directly care for, and a bulk of the learning or training is navigating the situations as you go to learn what the best practices for your participants are. As a DSP you aren’t just punching in and going through the motions until your shift is done…you’re building relationships! Unfortunately, some people who dabble in this field find they are not up to the challenge.
For the Direct Support Professionals, like Christina, who handle their tasks with ease and are truly passionate about their line of work, their biggest challenge with turnover lies not in the challenges, but instead comes down to dollars and cents. With many facilities and homes across the United States paying their DSP staff close to minimum wage, many DSPs are forced to find a different line of work in order to make ends meet.
We are trapped in a vicious cycle of DSP turnover, which then negatively effects the quality of care, and ultimately the quality of life, the individuals or participants are receiving and experiencing. Not only is the turnover rate challenging, it’s emotionally damaging and stressful to the participant who relies on their care. It’s a heartbreaking situation when strong bonds and relationships between the Direct Support Professional and their participants must end due to these circumstances, and in the end no one wins.
An Alternative Solution
As an alternative to working directly for homes or facilities, many Direct Support Professionals are now turning to agencies as a new alternative. Staffing agencies, like Capital Healthcare Solutions, are tackling the vicious turnover cycle by offering better pay, benefits, and more extensive in-house training. Capital’s Client Service Manager, Rob Hicks says “With schedule flexibility and competitive pay, agencies are becoming the better choice for Direct Support Professionals and the clients they provide care for.”
…Because the rewards are worth it!
At the end of the day, we want to help professionals, like Christina, succeed in the field that they have such a drive and passion for. “The most rewarding aspect of working as a Direct Support Professional is knowing you made someone’s day a little better, and knowing that because of you, someone’s life was in safe hands and being cared for,” Christina states.
The care for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities has certainly come a long way from the days of institutionalization, and we cannot afford to go backwards! Hard-working DSPs like Christina put their all every day into supporting and caring for their participants who depend on them. Only with strong professionals and a strong work environment can we make greater strides to achieving the goal of these individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities being fully contributing and valued members of their communities and society.
If you are looking for career opportunities as a Direct Support Professional, we invite you to join us, and experience the solutions Capital Healthcare can offer you!
Are you a Registered Nurse (RN), Therapist, or other healthcare professional looking for your next exciting opportunity?
Capital Healthcare has rewarding positions for Med/Surg RNs, ICU RNs, OR RNs, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and many other specialties in amazing destinations throughout the country!
Please contact us today and learn how we are dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.
Posted by Michelle Adams on Oct 28, 2016 1:59:13 PM
Michelle Adams, Advertising and Social Media Specialist for Capital Healthcare Solutions and Harmony Home Healthcare, enjoys life in Southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and beloved dog.