Why It’s Important to Keep Our Direct Support Staff Happy


Direct service professionals are an often-overlooked specialty in need of tolerant, good-natured workers; those who can provide the delicate care needed to keep up with the various challenges that are unique to clients with disabilities. Perhaps at DirectCourse we are a little biased, but we believe direct care staff might be one of the most significant types of workers in the lives of the clients that they serve.

The importance of hiring good direct care staff to work with people with disabilities has long been acknowledged, but perhaps not sufficiently appreciated. Not often enough do we give adequate credit to these wonderful people, people who dedicate their lives to serving those in need of constant assistance and care. Having a personal care assistant – someone who is reliable, caring, and flexible can have an extremely significant impact on the quality of life of the developmentally disabled.

We talk amply about how to improve the lives of those who are disabled, and providing them with care is of vital importance. However, since direct service professionals are typically the ones who interact with those with disabilities daily, we also need to think about what steps we can take to improve the experience of these care professionals while they are on the job.

Direct service professionals sometimes provide care under stressful working conditions, do not always have opportunities for career advancement, and are often among the lowest paid workers. Given the nature these jobs, it may not be surprising to learn that long-term care providers have difficulty recruiting and retaining employees.

So what are some things we can do to ensure direct support professionals get the support THEY need in order to do their jobs effectively?

A study published in the Oxford Journal interviewed a group of direct care professionals at both direct care facilities and individual home care to find out how their jobs could be improved. They asked these professionals what the single most important thing their employer could do to improve their jobs. The findings were eye opening.

Other than low pay, they found many common themes in their feedback such as “better communication” or “keep communication open,” and “keep us informed of changes.” Overall, work relationships appeared to be of the greatest concern in direct care facilities, and of the least concern in individual home care. The feedback from the direct care facilities as opposed to at home care is assumed to be related to the more frequent interaction with peers as well as the more intense supervision in this type of setting.

Although workers in home care mentioned work relationships least often when giving feedback, they still called for improved communication more often than other aspects of work relationships. Communication is key!

Another suggestion that direct care professionals stated was access to better training that can properly prepare them for their roles as direct care professionals. After all, training is crucial for both them and those for whom they provide care. At DirectCourse, we provide online training resources designed to empower support and care professionals to aid others in leading meaningful and productive lives. It was created because of the need for reliable, standardized training.

Let us not forget what an important service these direct care professionals provide to our disability community. If you work in the industry like us, it’s our responsibility to ensure these workers are receiving proper training, adequate compensation, and of course the appropriate communication they need to do their jobs well.

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