Frontline Initiative: Health and Wellness

Dorla's Average Non-Average Day


Matthew Crowley is a frontline supervisor at AHRC-NYC in Manhattan, New York. Matthew can be reached at

Strong woman with a look of confidence on her face. She has black curly hair that is pulled up and back. She has a yellow short-sleeved blouse with abstract images of different colors, red, blue, orange, green, white, and black. She is wearing a gold chain necklace and gold hoop earrings. She is standing outside where there is a lot of green foliage, and some yellow & orange flowers. There is a statue of a green frog on the ground.

Dorla Enriquez, direct support professional.

Dorla Enriquez embodies the multifaceted role of the direct support professional (DSP). She describes herself as being “part-counselor, part-teacher, part-event organizer.” She also happens to be Approved Medication Assistive Personnel (AMAP) certified, taking the initiative to handle medications, administer first aid, and measure vitals, sometimes all within a single workday. Yet somehow Dorla manages to pivot smoothly to her daily routine, which might include facilitating a group creating a presentation scheduled for an upcoming traumatic brain injury awareness event, or a poetry reading as part of an International Women’s Day celebration. We support people who have complex and very serious medical issues. These issues can become life-threatening very quickly. Committed, capable DSPs like Dorla are critical to people’s well-being.

Dorla has inspired me for years. Once, not too long ago, I was a fellow DSP. Now I am a frontline supervisor and, although I have a new perspective, it’s almost easier to observe and admire how integral she is to the quality of services that the program provides to the people we support.

A man with a soft smile and a look of confidence. He has a brown mustache and beard peppered with some white. He is wearing a purple knit cap and a blue plaid shirt over a blue teeshirt. He is outside with green foliage behind him.

Matthew Crowley FLS, author

Our work priority is to be really intentional about supporting the health and safety of the people we support. For example, staff may need to be within arm’s reach or merely in the general vicinity of someone who needs support while they are eating. However, depending on a person’s evolving health, this could change with the first bites of an apple. When someone who once easily swallowed inch-size bits of food is seen having difficulty, a swallowing test request can lead to a subtle but crucial adjustment to the size of the bits of food they can eat safely.

Yet there are times when a swallowing test is not enough.

During one of those “average non-average days,” I heard yelling from a room down the hall from my office. I hurried in to find Dorla performing the Heimlich maneuver on a person we support. She immediately commanded me to call 911. In the process, she gave me a brief, detailed description of what I needed to say when I did call. If she hadn’t given me such clear instructions, I would have been too distracted by the excitement of the moment to be as helpful on the phone as I needed to be. It was as though Dorla had rehearsed just such a scenario many times and the accumulated experience of regular mandatory trainings came back to her like flashbacks of step-by-step instructions. She explained, “I didn’t need to second-guess myself. I just let my instincts kick in.” On this average non-average day, her well-honed life-saving technique worked to perfection.

If Dorla had a motto, it would be to “always have a sense of duty and back it up with strong values.” At the same time, she reminds others that personal motivation is key: “Follow your energy.”

Every day is a matter of preparing for the unexpected, for the “average non-average day.” It begins with prioritizing tasks and dedicating time to work on her plans while coordinating with her colleagues. She says that doing so eases and balances her workload. If Dorla had a motto, it would be to “always have a sense of duty and back it up with strong values.” At the same time, she reminds others that personal motivation is key: “Follow your energy.”

Subscribe to Frontline Initiative