Frontline Initiative: Making Direct Support a Career

Increasing My Skills for Professional Practice Through the E-badge Academy


Mary Frank is a DSP-III at Community Connections, Inc. in Winner, South Dakota

Mary Frank

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) wear many hats supporting people in many aspects of their lives. Like all of us, each person has their own abilities and challenges. Some people need day-to-day support in household chores, getting ready for work, working at their job, going out and having fun, meeting new people and being an active member of the community in which they chose to live. Our role as DSPs includes supporting people as they run errands such as going to the bank or grocery store. We assist with personal care, medication, and exercise. We are often responsible for providing a medical care, writing detailed documents, and completing assessments. As any DSP knows, the list of ways we provide support could go on and on.

When I began my career as a DSP I was unaware of the totality of the responsibilities that are required to provide quality support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Truthfully, if I had I been aware, I might have passed on this career choice. Now, five years have passed. The joy and satisfaction this career brings to my life can only be completely understood by others who have chosen to make this career part of their lives  as well.

There is a myth that the future of someone with a disability is limited by the reality of that disability. Peoples’ disability does not define their lives. After spending years as a DSP, I see the truth. That truth is, that instead of focusing on a person’s deficit and needs, which leads to limited conclusions on what kinds of support the person requires, we DSPs see the person we support as a person first. It is our job to listen to that person. We see their strengths and gifts. We support their contributions.

When someone asks, “What keeps you working as a DSP?”, I answer that it is an honor. Every day I have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people. In that way, no other job can compare.

code of ethics e-badge graphic

Recently I participated in the E-Badge Academy Accreditation Program provided by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). It is designed to equip DSPs to give quality care to the people we support. Through the application of the NADSP Code of Ethics I have been training and increasing my knowledge as a DSP. This experience has helped me feel more equipped and confident in my career choice.

A DSP provides people with the exposure needed to make informed choices about their lives. We educate people we support to learn skills to be a contributing member of a community. The NADSP Code of Ethics encourages and trains DSPs to support people by building on their strengths and capabilities. This supports them to develop independence and self-advocacy. It enhances a person’s self-confidence, dignity, and leads to a satisfying life.

Moving through my journey in the NADSP E-badge Academy, I gained understanding, knowledge, and skills. These can be passed along to new and existing staff via communication and training. I hope that this added support for staff ensures a common knowledge base and skill set. DSPs who seek credentials through the E-badge Academy first earn the Code of Ethics badge. This signifies how important it is in our professional practice. It is my belief that the NADSP Code of Ethics equips us as DSPs to provide high quality, person-centered services.

Through the E-badge Academy, I feel honored to have earned national recognition in the DSP-III Certification. Without the E-badge Academy, my contributions and commitment to professional development might otherwise go unacknowledged. Direct support days are very busy and do not offer much time for reflection. With the submission of each E-badge, deliberate reflection on knowledge, skills, and values used in direct support is required. Earning the DSP-III Certification has given me the self-assurance to continue to improve my skill set by providing accessible education in this field.