The Next Chapter for a Career as a Direct Support Professional

By Sara Porcaro | Sep 16, 2022
Training, Career Development, Direct Support Professionals, DSPs, Rhode Island, Disabilities

They're essential parts of our workforce, exceptional advocates for themselves and others, and some of the most dedicated people you'll ever meet. They handle high stress situations with grace, wear so many hats on a day to day basis, and open up an entire world of possibilities to the people they serve. And yet how many times, when we ask these extremely critical workers what they do for a living, have we heard the phrase: "I'm just a Direct Support Professional"?
In the opinion of all of us at Perspectives, and our peers in human services across the nation: far too many.
That's why Perspectives is proud to announce the first-ever program of its kind in Rhode Island: a Direct Support Professional (DSP) credentialing program that aims to further educate and elevate these professionals. By going through this program, DSPs not only gain more professional experience and the opportunity to demonstrate their competencies, but also a way to showcase their experience in the position and grow within the agency--all without having to take on supervisor roles that they aren't interested in. This program is a part of a national movement to provide DSPs even more of the professionalism, prestige, and recognition they deserve, and our teams are excited to be a part of it.
"There are so many DSPs in this country, and yet the job almost seems invisible," says COO Kim Einloth. "It's a knife in the heart every time I hear someone say 'just a DSP'; they're so critical to our communities. People depend on them to live fulfilling, rewarding lives, and we're long overdue for recognizing this job as the professional career that it is."
"We're focused on growing the role of the DSP," say Training Director PJ Harder. "We want people to know that they don't have to take on a supervisor or manager role for advancement--that we're dedicated to career growth no matter what their goals are."
Perspectives' Training Department created a structured Training Plan with NADSP Accredited Courses. The courses are available on Relias, where DSPs, out of determination to do their best by the people we support, have already been taking extra courses to enhance the quality of services. Through Perspectives' Relias online learning management system, participants are able to go through the DSP I and DSP II credentialing program at their own pace, with both NADSP and the Training Department providing various support throughout the experience. Our online learning systems make it easy to take these courses online from the comfort of home, and there's no cost to participate.
NADSP built this program to acknowledge what DSPs already know from years of service on the job, as well as one built to show them new skills and ideas to further develop their professional competencies. For example, one of the first badges earned in DSP I is actually the Code of Ethics badge based on the NADSP's criteria. Perspectives is piloting DSP I and DSP II, which upon completion, offers a generous bonus as well as a pay increase to respect the time and effort put into professional development.
"I just started this program, and I think it'll be worth being a part of since many of these courses aren't covered in annual online trainings," DSP Alicia Babcock-Raposo says. "These courses can only strengthen our abilities and provide a way of thinking to help us be more creative and goal-oriented working with people we support."
For others who have already started the course, there's plenty good already coming from it: "I am very much enjoying the program and feel that after so many years in the field, we are finally making progress to make the DSP title as recognizable nationwide as a CNA or Registered Nurse," says DSP Brian Wiles. I'm very thankful for this opportunity, and am looking forward to following through and completing all of the program's trainings and e-badge requirements across all available levels."
"They're interested in this," says HRIS Manager Ashlyn Farrell. "They want to do the best work they can do, and this program and syllabus helps them do that. It's almost like having a Perspectives University."
"A lot of DSPs in the course are taking a lot of value from this because they love their job and want to stay in this work," adds HR Assistant Sarah Case. "This program gives them the opportunity to do that and develop their experience even more."
It's long been time for DSPs to not be seen only as a stepping stone job, or something temporary before one moves onto the next phase of their career: it's time that, across the nation, over a million Americans are seen as the professional, credentialed, and critical members of the workforce that they are. Not only are we excited to see this program put to work as the first wave of participants go through the course, but we're also excited to pave the way for DSPs in Rhode Island. Our professionals are courageous and committed, willing to go the extra mile to build up their role--and with that newfound confidence, skill, and experience, it'll no doubt translate into better and better supports for individuals, too. Here's to a wonderful new learning experience!


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