Connections - 01.31.24

Activating The Direct Care Workforce When DSP Turnover Is High

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The challenge of DSP turnover within I/DD agencies is an ongoing concern that requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. To mitigate the impact, it is crucial to empower your workforce and provide them with the support and resources they need to excel in their roles. Here are strategies we’ve seen that work to enhance DSP engagement and satisfaction, ultimately leading to improved retention rates.

The work that DSPs do goes far beyond tasks. It requires critical thinking, communication skills, proper documentation, and note-taking to defend care plans. DSPs put the people they care for at the center of their work, and the non-direct care tasks they do need to be thoroughly explained and defined. When DSPs don’t understand the reasoning behind a task, they might not feel motivated to complete it.

By taking the time to clearly communicate and help them understand the purpose, you can help them stay engaged—and compliant. ANCOR’s report, The State of America’s Direct Care Workforce Crisis 2023, touches on a critical piece of the puzzle: discontinuation or disenrollment of programs.

When caregivers are diligent about clocking in and out and logging care notes, they are actively working to support their clients’ continuation of care from a reimbursement standpoint. Many of these clients may live in areas where there is only one provider, and the need to retain the organization—and by proxy, its workers—is higher than others.

DSPs choose care work because it makes a meaningful impact on the lives of others. Tasks like using electronic visit verification (EVV) and specialized learning programs may feel separate from their day-to-day tasks. You can connect the dots between care work and the use of technology, or other tasks that aren’t directly related. This also helps DSPs learn how the work they do aligns with your organization’s mission and contributes to their sense of meaning and purpose (in providing support to their clients).

Scenario: Consider a DSP tasked with using the EVV system to document their visits with a client. Initially, this task may appear as a technological requirement, unrelated to their core job. However, when the DSP is informed about the profound impact of the EVV system on client support and safety, they begin to see the significance, that the system is not just about recording visits; it is a critical tool for ensuring that clients receive the right support at the right time.

Create Career Paths that Promote Upward Mobility for DSPs

One common complaint among DSPs is feeling disconnected from their agency, supervisors, and peers. This can lead to reduced job satisfaction, lower levels of commitment, and a higher likelihood of searching for jobs in other industries.

To address this issue effectively, provide DSPs with opportunities to actively participate in decision-making processes within your organization. 77% of respondents shared that they’ve had to turn away referrals at higher rates than in 2020. Creating career paths for DSPs will help them to see a long-term progression within your organization. On the client side, this promotes continuity of care and adherence to quality standards that improve care quality.

Upward mobility isn’t just moving DSPs into a new role. It can also include asking them for input in your decision-making involvement. It signifies that DSPs’ opinions and experiences are valued and integrated into the agency’s operations. DSPs can be vital in shaping their own work environment, aligning themselves with the agency’s mission and values, and contributing to your organization’s overall success.

Best Practice: Establish a DSP advisory committee. This gives your workers a forum to share best practices and feedback to better support clients, while proactively addressing changes in care. This also helps to prevent worker isolation, helping them to feel supported rather than on an island.

Create a DSP Community

DSP turnover hovers around 44%, presenting an opportunity to help workers feel more connected and engaged in their work and the organization at large. DSPs often work in isolation, providing one-to-one support to clients living at home, which can lead to feelings of loneliness. To combat this, create a sense of community among DSPs, even in a virtual setting.

Best Practice: Utilize social media platforms like Facebook, communication tools like Slack, or gaming communities like Discord to facilitate connections and information-sharing. Additionally, you can organize live-streamed town hall meetings where DSPs can interact with leadership and share their experiences. This helps maintain a sense of belonging and keeps DSPs informed about organizational updates.

Letting DSPs share their preferences for a venue like this is critical to its success. You can also post content like motivational messages, celebrate anniversaries, and encourage DSPs to exchange ideas and best practices.

2024 is Your Year for DSP Recruitment, Retention, and Engagement

DSP retention is critical to your business, at a time when they need more resources and tools to be successful. By investing in technologies and strategies that empower DSPs, foster a sense of community, and involve them in decision-making, you not only address the immediate challenges of turnover but also create a foundation for sustained growth and excellence in service. In this competitive landscape, DSPs who feel valued are more likely to stay committed to their roles, providing the continuity and quality of support your clients depend on.

Jennifer Lagemann is the Lead Writer at Sandata.