Direct Support Professionals

Recognizing and Retaining Your Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

Tools and strategies for recognizing, supporting, training, and retaining DSPs who support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Direct Support Professionals and COVID-19

Throughout COVID-19, direct support professionals have continued to provide care to persons served. From learning new processes, moving to different service offerings, and/or working overtime, DSPs have been extremely agile as we’ve navigated the pandemic. This agility, however, can easily lead to burnout, anxiety, and other impacts on mental health. Help your staff take care of themselves by taking advantage of our free wellness course series, with courses on stress management, work life balance, healthy sleep and more. The following articles can also help your organization understand the impact COVID-19 has on mental health and how to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue in your staff:

COVID-19 and Trauma: How a Pandemic Affects Our Mental Health

Epidemics have been shown to create general stress across the populations they affect, and we are yet to see the long-term effects of COVID-19 on mental health.

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Recognizing and Treating Compassion Fatigue in DSPs

Your Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are especially susceptible to compassion fatigue and it can lead to your most caring and committed DSPs leaving the job.

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5 Ways to Recognize & Support DSPs

Showing appreciation for your team doesn’t require grand gestures. Something as simple as a handwritten thank you note or a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop can go a long way in making DSPs feel seen and heard.

5 Ways to Support & Recognize Your Direct Support Professionals Infographic

Strategies to Boost DSP Retention

Every provider agency in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field has the same mission: Provide children and adults with IDD with the resources and support they need to achieve full and meaningful lives in their communities. The most successful agencies succeed because their Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) truly live this mission and care deeply for the people they support. By training and developing the skills of your staff, you position your agency for success and ultimately improve the quality of care for those you serve. The best way to train new or experienced Direct Support Professionals is not always straightforward. That’s why Relias has worked with IDD partners, organizations and provider agencies to develop these go-to resources for training and developing DSPs with the goal of improving the quality of care and positioning your agency for success.

Strategies for Decreasing DSP Turnover

Download this helpful eBook to discover strategies for improving hiring and placement, boosting engagement and retaining your DSPs.

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How to Boost Retention in IDD Services

Learn how assessments can help you make better hiring decisions and how creating personalized development plans for your employees can improve retention.

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Increasing DSP Retention Through Peer Mentoring Programs

In this on-demand webinar, Arlene Bridges, an IDD business expert, gives you concrete steps that will help you develop better, more committed DSPs.

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Developing Supervisory Skills in Your QPs

For IDD service providers, improving the supervisory skills of their QIDPs is an essential part of any DSP retention strategy. Learn how to craft an effective supervisory training program.

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Best Practices for Training DSPs

Discover the 9 elements of successful Direct Support Professional training programs and how focused learning can improve your training.

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Blog Posts on DSP Appreciation and Engagement

What Makes a Successful DSP, and How Do You Find More?

What do you look for when interviewing DSP candidates? I’ve asked that question of providers across the country, and the same characteristics come up again and again...

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11 Steps to Implementing a DSP Peer Mentoring Program

A peer mentorship program for your DSPs is a great way to increase employee engagement and retention. Get started on a DSP peer mentoring program with these steps.

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Do Your DSPs Have the Skills and Motivation They Need?

Give your Direct Support Professionals the tools they need to provide the best quality of support to people with disabilities.

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FAQs about DSPs

  • What jobs fall under the category of direct support professional?

    Personal care assistants, job coaches and group home workers are all DSPs. DSPs may also be called support workers, caregivers or paraprofessionals. These job names are also used in the behavioral health field.

  • What are the training requirements for DSPs?

    Training requirements vary from state to state and from provider to provider. In general, DSPs must have training in CPR, First Aid and the organization’s policies and procedures. Their supervisors will also train them in the unique needs of the individuals they will support, as outlined in their Individual Support Plan.

    However, the best agencies train their DSPs on the primacy of participant employment and respect for the individual being served. Trainings on the conditions of the individuals and on such specialties as employment support, positive behavior supports and the Fatal Four are also important. Such supplemental trainings are essential to providing high-quality services and supports.

  • What is the typical level of education among DSPs?

    Between 54 and 63% of individuals in direct care positions have a high school diploma.

  • What topics do most DSPs feel they needed more training on before starting their role?

    According to the 2019 Relias DSP Survey report, DSPs who were not planning to stay in their current role beyond one year reported the following topics they felt they needed more training on before beginning their role in direct support:

    • The conditions/disorders of the people supported
    • Positive behavior supports
    • How to connect persons served to their community
  • How can a provide agency create a career ladder for DSPs?

    Establishing opportunities for professional development and career advancement is essential to boosting DSP retention. Here are some strategies an agency can use to create a career ladder:

    • Specialist positions: The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) offers Certificates of Achievement for certain disciplines, including behavior specialist and community inclusion specialist.
    • Certifications: The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) offers e-badges for essential competencies for DSPs and for supplemental training. These e-badges can be grouped together to achieve NADSP’s certifications for DSPs.
    • Peer mentorship: Establishing a peer mentorship program creates a career step for your experiences DSPs and nurtures your new hires, which can increase the likelihood that they will be successful and stay in the job.
Direct Support Professionals

Strengthen Your DSP Retention Efforts

Insufficient training, job stress and poor supervision are among the top reasons direct support professionals (DSPs) leave the job. Address these issues by providing your direct support professionals and their supervisors with great training.

Relias online courses and personnel assessments can help you boost your employee retention.

  • Reduce stress and frustration by ensuring that your DSPs have the knowledge and skills they need to do a great job.
  • Make sure your DSPs have the supervision, support and encouragement they need by training their supervisors in leadership, management and communication.
  • Detect gaps in knowledge or skills before they become costly mistakes with personnel assessments.

To learn how you can partner with Relias to improve your training, service quality, and DSP retention, schedule a call with one of our solutions experts.

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