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Relias Press Release

Relias Survey of Direct Support Professionals Reveals Disparity Between Employee Expectations and Employment Realities of Industry

While 75% of DSPs expect to be in same or similar role one year later, turn-over rate is near 50%.

MORRISVILLE, NC, October 9, 2019 – Relias, a trusted partner to more than 10,000 healthcare organizations around the world and across the continuum of care, has released the results of a primary research study of Direct Support Professionals (DSP) in the intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) services field conducted in July of this year. The results showcase key staffing issues around hiring and training, as well as the vital role supervisors play in staff retention in an industry where, according to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities’ 2017 report, the national cost of replacing DSPs (identifying, hiring, on-boarding, training, etc.) was estimated to be $2.3 billion in 2015.

“The responses to our survey have brought the challenges faced by IDD services providers into the spotlight” said Jim Triandiflou, CEO of Relias. “By taking advantage of available tools and technologies, the likelihood of hiring and retaining quality DSPs rises, and the quality of care and financial outcomes improve.”

More than 840 professionals responded to the survey. The findings include:


With more than 80% of respondents saying they believe they make a difference in the lives of the people they support, it’s clear that the role of the DSP can be rewarding. Yet, the above cited Report to the President notes that the national average annual turnover rate of DSPs is 45%. Given this turnover rate, the field needs nearly 575,000 new DSPs every year to maintain the current levels of service — highlighting the importance of hiring the right individuals. The use of personnel assessments can be of critical use in the hiring process, making sure that candidates are a true fit for the role.


Perhaps most interestingly, of those DSPs who said they plan to leave their current job, more than 50% felt they needed more initial training regarding the conditions/disorders of the people they were asked to support, suggesting a correlation between onboarding/training and staff retention exists. Respondents also cited “positive behavior supports/how to deal with behavior problems” as another area where additional training could make a difference.

The Importance of Supervisors

Survey respondents who stated they planned to leave their job were likely to identify their supervisor as one of the reasons. Forty-four percent stated, “my supervisor is not supportive,” more than double the percent of those who plan to stay. Additionally, those planning to leave were three times more likely to select “give me a better supervisor” as the most important thing their employer could do to keep them. The survey revealed that just over one third of respondents (36.7%) feel their supervisor is supportive, highlighting management training as an area for improvement that can be tied to staff retention.

For more information, please view our recent webinar discussing the DSP survey, co-hosted by John Nash, Executive Director of The Arc of North Carolina.

About the Survey
In July 2019, Relias created and launched an online survey for the purposes of understanding how IDD agencies can boost DSP retention. The survey was distributed through email, social media, and partner organizations, including as the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, The Arc of the United States, and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR). The survey was closed to responses July 31, 2019.

More than 800 responses were received. Slightly different questions were asked of those DSPs who had been on the job for less than six years and those who had been on the job for six years or more. A little over half of respondents fell into that second subset. You can see the full list of questions in Appendix A and a full breakdown of the responses in Appendix B of the survey, available here.

About Relias

Relias provides lifelong workforce enablement solutions for 12,000 healthcare and human services organizations and 4.5 million caregivers to drive measurable outcomes. Customers use Relias solutions to attract and retain talent, elevate care quality and reduce risk with our technology, services, community, and expertise. The Relias family of brands — Nurse.com, Wound Care Education Institute, Relias Academy, FreeCME, and Relias Media — serves the entire healthcare community and shares a common goal of improving the lives of the most vulnerable members of society and those who care for them. 

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