For agencies that provide support for individuals with developmental disabilities, finding direct care staff is often a challenge. The competition in the job market for reliable workers is tight, especially in the healthcare industry. Here is some general advice for hiring quality, direct support professionals.

Whether you are a Medicaid waiver provider agency or an independent provider, hiring a direct support professional (DSP) who can provide quality care is important. All agencies want to make sure they are hiring someone who is well-suited for the position.

Providing supports for someone with physical or developmental needs is a task that is not suited for everyone. When hiring a direct care worker or support associate, employers want to know that the staff member will provide the services that are needed as well as treat individuals with care and respect.

What are the responsibilities of a DSP?

A good direct support professional should have the ability to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Being a DSP is at the same time a challenging and rewarding job. Some of the challenges include a lack of cooperation from some of the individuals who are receiving support. Or, a feeling that some training and facilities are not adequate.

The rewards for DSPs include knowing that they are making a difference in someone’s life as well as a sense of satisfaction. There is also a sense of fulfillment in successfully completely training programs and gaining new skills and experiences.

More specifically, the main responsibilities of direct support professionals include:

  • Help individuals develop appropriate social, behavioral, money management and housekeeping skills
  • Provide feedback regarding the strengths, skills and performance needs of the patients.
  • Provide supervision and guidance during skill-building activities.
  • Develop a rapport with the individuals they serve in order to nurture safe and supportive relationships.
  • Document and report individual progress.

All of the above tasks are incredibly important. A skilled and experienced direct support professional is invaluable. But, this industry has a high rate of turnover. This means that I-DD service providers are in a constant state of hiring. However, if the hiring agent can find applicants who possess certain characteristics, there is a better chance that staff turnover can be minimized.

Attributes of a good DSP:

In order to properly carry out these tasks, direct care workers need to possess a number of attributes. When hiring a direct care worker, agencies should look for the following qualities:

[1] DSPs are empathetic:

They need a level of empathy (or caring) in order to meet the demands of this job. Having empathy is a mental trait that involves an understanding of the inner experiences and perspectives of the person they are assisting. This also combines with an ability to communicate with and understand the person who is receiving the services. Being empathetic means also displaying compassion which is a sustained emotional investment in an individual’s well-being. A DSP should have the desire to take actions that will benefit the person they are assisting.

[2] DSPs are responsible:

Individuals and families depend on DSPs to deliver quality services. Workers need to reliably show up on time, follow schedules, stay in compliance, obey ISPs and meet the needs of the individuals they serve. Their work can be challenging sometimes, since they are supporting people with unpredictable behaviors. DSPs cannot simply give up. They need to carry out their assigned tasks in a legal and professional manner.

[3] DSPs are flexible:

Individuals with developmental disabilities have a variety of needs. A one-size-fits-all attitude is sometimes not the best approach for delivering quality care. Adjustments will almost always have to be made. A good direct care worker knows how to adjust but still meet the needs of the individual who is receiving the services.

[4] DSPs have good judgment:

Direct support professionals should possess sound judgment. This means that they should have and follow some internal moral principles. Often, some people consider this to be having “character” and the ability to stand up and represent the needs of those who are under attack. Honesty and integrity are closely associated with good judgment.

If a direct care worker possesses all four of these traits, they will likely be an excellent employee. They will likely get along with everyone, regardless of their background, ethnicity or political views. Since they work with individuals who have developmental and physical disabilities, DSPs need to be patient and understanding.

In addition, beyond the above character traits, DSPs must be computer literate, have some administrative skills and be self-motivated.

The overall goal is to provide quality supports to the individuals who need your services, instead of constantly having to play the role of a hiring manager.

Who we are:

I-DD agencies and other human service agencies that need accurate, affordable and efficient time collection rely on eWebSchedule.

EWebSchedule is software solution offered by Advanced Billing & Consulting Services (ABCS), which is a company with a long history of working with agencies that serve individuals with developmental disabilities.

Their intuitive software solution provides workforce management tools and services that are uniquely designed for human service agencies with direct support professionals. Their custom-built software applications were specifically created for the unique billing and scheduling needs of HCBS Medicaid Waiver providers.

Whether your agency offers adult-day array, HPC, NMT, ICF/DD (group homes), supported living or institutional respite – eWebSchedule can help. Contact them today.

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