eWebSchedule: What Traits Should a Good Direct Care Worker Have?

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Direct care workers and direct support professionals (DSP) have a challenging job. Many agencies know this fact and often struggle to find and keep good workers.

Yet, what traits actually make for a good direct care worker or direct support professional (DSP)? There are no exact behavior traits, but there are some general personality features that are usually possessed by good direct care staff or direct support professionals.

What Do Direct Care Workers Actually Do?

Individuals with developmental disabilities need to have professional support staff in their lives. Whether these services are from an independent provider or a larger agency, they are an essential part of these people's lives. Direct support professionals understand that they are needed in order to help individuals with developmental disabilities achieve a better quality of life. The goal is to have as much independence as possible.

Some the responsibilities and duties for direct care workers include:

  • Help their patients avoid health hazards and stay safe.
  • Report instances of neglect or abuse to the proper authorities.
  • Supervise, record and help individuals with their personal behavior.
  • Provide assistance with tasks such as personal care, transportation, cooking, shopping and managing finances.

However, due to the demanding nature of the occupation, DSP positions tend to have a high turnover rate. This has created a shortage of staff for many agencies. Now, there are staff shortages in other healthcare specialties such as nursing and psychiatry. However, the shortage of DSP staff is more pronounced for waiver provider agencies.

This means that provider agencies and other human service organizations are almost constantly looking for new employees. However, developing and maintaining a workforce of good direct care staff starts with the hiring process. If provider agencies can find and hire workers with well-aligned personality traits, there is less chance that they will quit.

There are numerous personality traits that make for a good DSP, but there are a few crucial ones that are necessary for all direct care staff. There is no guarantee, but these behavioral characteristics are often a sign that a person will make a good DSP.

Three traits that make for a good direct care worker are:
  • Sound Judgment - having moral principles, character and honesty that are easy to recognize.
  • Dependable Nature - able to consistently perform tasks, meet deadlines and complete projects over time.
  • Sense of Compassion - the ability to “walk in another person's shoes” allows a worker to engage in actions that benefit other people.

If people have these traits, this will likely mean that as a worker, they will have a level of competencies that will make them a good DSP. If a person already possesses these traits, there is a significant chance that they are a good fit to be a direct support professional. They should have a daily goal to move forward and have a positive attitude about life in general.

The Reality of DSP Employment:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for home health aides and personal care aides is estimated to grow by 36 percent by 2028. Verses many other occupations, this is a fast growth rate. Researchers predict that as the population of elderly and people with disabilities continues to grow, demand for these services will only increase.

However, wages are still low for this occupation. In 2018, across the nation, the median pay for this occupation was $11.57 per hour. An amount that roughly comes out to just over $24,000 a year.

Federal and state governments have started to increase the wages for direct support professionals and similar workers. For example, in the state of Ohio, the two-phase pay increase will have the average DSP reimbursement rate for Homemaker Personal Care (HPC) services increasing to $13.23 by January 1, 2021.

However, when compared to other occupations this pay rate is still not enough. Especially when considering how valuable their services are to the people that they serve.

Direct support professionals provide meaningful work support to individuals with developmental disabilities. Working as a DSP is a rewarding, but challenging job. The support that they provide creates a sense of purpose.

However, having to consistently provide compassionate and professional care can physically exhaust a direct care worker. This is another reason why higher rates of stress are typically reported by direct support workers. These essential workers need to find a work-life balance that allows them to provide great healthcare, but still have time for themselves.

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Updated from original article published on December 22, 2020

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