Advancing the Direct Support Professional Training Program

Full Partner Agencies: Misericordia Heart of Mercy

High turnover rates among the Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff represents an enormous financial and operational burden to developmental disabilities agencies; however, the most serious impact of staff turnover is seen in the quality of care provided to individuals with developmental disabilities. This information is supported by the report completed by the Illinois Council for Developmental Disabilities titled Blue Print for System Redesign. According to this report,“. . . community agencies in Illinois are plagued by high rates of turnover among direct support professionals. High turnover translates very directly into major problems in assuring that services meet essential quality standards. It also poses real problems in ensuring that people with developmental disabilities receive services and supports that enable them to achieve critical outcome in their lives. An unstable workforce increases the underlying costs of services in the form of increased use of overtime, higher workers’ compensation expenses and training costs.” One of the three steps identified in this report recommends that Illinois “build momentum generated through the Council’s effort to identify and implement effective strategies for recruiting and retaining workers and training these workers.”

Misericordia’s program provides an opportunity for DSPs to develop a career path. Many individuals within this position have had minimal education, limiting their opportunity for professional growth and often resulting in high levels of burnout. Through this training program, Misericordia provides additional educational experiences and training above and beyond what is currently required by the Department of Human Services (DHS). This additional training complements a newly defined career path with specific goals and milestones. By completing the advanced training and advancing within the career path, direct care employees will possess a new standard of knowledge and skills that is critical in caring for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The Advancing the DSP Training Program includes the following components: a three-tiered training program (core, specialty, and leadership) covering approximately 48 hours; a stand-alone workshop on mentoring; and a continuing education requirement.

Once they have completed the 3-tiered training series, employees will be asked to maintain at least three to four hours of continuing education credits per year that are relevant to their experience or area of employment. This ensures that they remain current and up to date in their field.

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