By Karen Larson
The Arc, Minnesota
A DSP Story
What is a DSP? Direct Support Professional. Some other titles you may be more familiar with are…Nurse, Job Coach, Family Care Provider, Personal Assistant, Personal Care Assistant, and Habilitation Specialist.
DSPs assist people with daily living and work activity. Depending on an individual’s needs, some of the duties that DSPs might do are chef, housekeeper, secretary, beautician, laundry worker, banker, chauffeur, personal shopper, first aid administrator, medication administrator, physical therapist, occupational therapist, music therapist, art therapist, dietitian, and job coach.
Lacey Stadler started working as a DSP since 2000 and has loved every minute of it. Lacey reported she started out as a DSP working the overnight shift.
She helps folks with daily living skills, giving assistance when needed. Making sure that the people she works with are happy is Lacey’s number one goal.
While she was working as a DSP, she was managing her Day Care for children with disabilities, raising her own children, and attending college.
In 2006, Lacey graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Present day Lacey works as a Program Coordinator.
As a Program Coordinator some of Lacey’s responsibilities include but are not limited to: scheduling and taking folks to medical appointments; completing paperwork such as Individual Program Plans: and Behavior Support Plans; making sure that all the licensing rules are being met; coordinating with guardians, parents social workers and day programs; teaching, training and supporting the Direct Support Professionals.
She does all of this while picking up Direct Support Professional shifts where needed.
Lacey says that the biggest part of her job is making people happy whether it is finding the “right” shirt or setting up an urgent care visit, filling a shift, or getting that special airplane boarding pass. It is all in a day’s work and she loves it. She also tells us that everyone she works with is a rock star.
Everyone gives 110% to the folks they serve. Lacey reports that her boss is understanding and encouraging: about COVID 19 her boss told them they are doing great, hang in there and there will be an end.
Lacey reports that they have their own support system: giving encouragement where needed, taking that extra shift because your coworker picked up the last three shifts or teaching someone a new skill because that is what teamwork is all about.
Lacey has told us repeatedly that she loves every minute of her job and would not change a thing. But there are a couple of things that she wants everyone to know. Direct Support Professionals work long hours.
If you are working the morning shift ending at 3 p.m. and the staff that was supposed to relieve you did not show up, you have to stay. You cannot leave folks we assist alone and there are times when there is no one to come in. Lacey thinks that if Direct Support Professionals got a raise they would stay in the field longer.
We are in a DSP crisis. The University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration Impact magazine states; “…the reality is that significant challenges remain in finding, keeping and training DSPs who support persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Often labeled a “crisis” this label has plagued this industry since the start of community services.
A 30-year crisis is not a crisis; it is a systematic and pervasive failure in the long-term services and supports system in the United States that has created a public health “crisis”. Impact magazine also reported one of the contributing factors to DSP shortage is high turnover. The Minnesota state average turnover rate for DSPs in 2018 was 46%. One cause is low wages. The national average wage for DSPs is $11.76 hour (NCL, 2018).
How do we fight the shortage? Please spread the word: Direct Support Professionals are VALUABLE, PROFESSIONAL, HARDWORKING, CARING individuals and LOVE THEIR JOBS.
Direct Support Professionals deserve recognition for the career path that they have chosen to support persons with disabilities to reach their personal goals. Direct Support Professionals are critical care professionals who necessitate a living wage to provide safe, person-centered, and quality care to the people they serve.