Frontline Initiative International

Creating a Code of Ethics for Direct Support Professionals

Most professions have ethical statements that embody a set of common values for those who work within their respective fields. The Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians is the most commonly recognized example. All human service professionals require guidance on ethical matters from time to time. The nature of working directly with individuals on a personal level can raise many complex questions and issues. This is especially true for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who are often faced with ethical dilemmas but do not always have the necessary tools or resources to help guide them. Resolving these dilemmas with little support or guidance can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience, which may lead to low morale, interagency conflict and potentially higher turnover rates. To provide quality support, DSPs require concise and practical guidelines to handle the ethical challenges encountered in their daily work settings. 

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) is working on a code of ethics to assist DSPs with making difficult decisions and to unify the profession by articulating a common set of values. The purpose of the Code is not only to assist DSPs in providing better support but also to help them demonstrate a commitment to the highest standards of professionalism. To reflect the values held by DSPs and provide real guidance in meeting the challenges they face, the Code must include the voice of DSPs. Focus groups with DSPs, self-advocates, and family members will be held to identify and define ethics based on their experiences. Written surveys will also be used to gather information. Enclosed in this issue of Frontline Initiative is a survey on ethics to be completed by DSPs.

The NADSP ethics subcommittee will gather all survey and focus group results and analyze the data gathered. Key areas will be identified that will serve to form the Code of Ethics. The NADSP Code of Ethics subcommittee is also researching ethical statements currently used in other professions, such as social work and nursing. This information will be brought together in a format that will have a general introduction and a list of brief ethical statements, each followed by an expanded explanation.