Frontline Initiative: Health and Wellness

NADSP Update
Supporting Health and Wellness During a Pandemic: Easier Said Than Done!


Joseph M. Macbeth is President and CEO of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) in Albany, New York. Joseph can be reached at

NADSP update
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Joseph Macbeth

After more than three long years of working through a pandemic, I’d say that direct support professionals have become highly sophisticated in promoting health and wellness by employing their keen sense of observation, embracing new technology, and being impeccable with their communication. We know that monitoring and implementing appropriate actions to promote healthy living and preventing illness has always been an important part of direct support work. But during these long and challenging three years, promoting health and wellness has been given new meaning and become the highest priority for most direct support professionals. As you will read in this issue of Frontline Initiative, direct support professionals have met an unprecedented challenge head-on and, once again, proved how their work has literally saved people’s lives.

During these long and challenging three years, promoting health and wellness has been given new meaning and become the highest priority for most direct support professionals.

As direct support professionals, we also have an ethical responsibility to promote the emotional, physical, and personal well-being of the people we support. Our Code of Ethics requires us “to encourage growth and recognize the autonomy of those receiving support while being attentive and energetic in reducing the risk of harm.” But what exactly does that mean?

The Code of Ethics provides us with more information. For instance, it means that we must “develop respectful relationships with the people we support that is based on mutual trust.” It means that we must “maintain professional boundaries, while understanding and respecting the values of the people we support and facilitate their expression of choices related to those values.” That wasn’t easy to do when there was so much conflicting information available to us from less-than-reliable sources about things like social distancing, wearing masks, and vaccines. Direct support professionals must always use reliable, research-driven information as a guide to supporting health and wellness.

Furthermore, as the pandemic wanes and we slowly re-enter community life, direct support professionals have challenged other team members to recognize and support the rights of people to make informed decisions, even when these decisions involve personal risk. To be sure, direct support professionals work within the context of a team, and team meetings can become robust discussions, but direct support professionals must always demonstrate their allegiance to those they support.

We’ve often said that effective direct support professionals possess complex skills, ethical reasoning, sound judgment, and strong decision-making ability. Nothing could have prepared direct support professionals for promoting health and wellness during a pandemic, but as you’re about to read, they passed with flying colors and should be celebrated for their dedication, professionalism, and resourcefulness.

Lastly, supporting your own health and wellness is just as important. Direct support work can be physically and emotionally challenging, so you need to be physically and emotionally healthy to do it well. During the past few years, many direct support professionals have worked a lot of overtime hours due to staffing shortages. Please be sure to keep a healthy work-personal life balance. Be mindful of your own needs and get proper sleep, eat healthy and try to get outside to enjoy the summer months. As the old saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, so please be good to yourself!

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