What is a DSP?

DSP, or Direct Support Professionals, are the hundreds of men and women who work in one-on-one or small group settings with the people whom Springbrook supports. The people in these positions cover the entire breadth of the programs we provide; from our Kids Unlimited Preschool through our School at Springbrook to our Community Services and Community Homes programs. These staff members are the essence of our organization and the face of compassion that the over 1,000 people who choose our programs know as Springbrook.

DSP Portrait: Ed Burrows

Ed is a Residential Counselor at Walnut Street IRA. Before coming to Springbrook, he worked for a phone company as a Quality Assurance analyst, but found his work unfulfilling. He decided it was time for a change, put in an application with Springbrook, and has now worked for Springbrook at the Walnut Street IRA for over 12 years!

Ed’s typical day on the afternoon shift has him greeting the residents as they come home from their day programs or jobs. This transition time give him the opportunity to support residents as they reflect on their day, find out if anything fun or exciting happened since they last spoke, and help people wind down from the day, including helping to pack lunches up for the following morning.

Once everyone is home, they work together to decide what to do for dinner; Brooks BBQ is house favorite! Once that decision is made, it is common to see Ed with the people he supports out for a walk downtown, or in one of Oneonta’s beautiful parks. Basketball is a favorite activity among many who live at Walnut, so sometimes they go across the street to the Ford Ave. IRA and borrow their hoop!

After some leisure time and dinner, there is either more socializing or everyone begins to turn in for the evening. Ed is responsible for passing medications in the evening, then he is there to offer assistance to anyone who might require some additional help preparing for bed. Ed sees his role for the people he works with as “support on demand,” not supervision.

When Ed was asked about what being a DSP has meant in his life, he reflected “I’ve noticed in myself since coming to Springbrook that my patience has increased. My priorities have shifted, my empathy has increased, and I take time to value what is important in life.” When asked what he might say to someone considering a position with Springbrook, Ed said “I’m living proof that anyone who wants to make a difference can. Springbrook empowers staff members to do great work.”


A facilitator

People who choose our programs make decisions about their daily life, goals, personal care, and leisure time. These decisions are rooted in a plan created in conjunction with a person’s family, medical and behavioral team, and program staff. Ultimately it is the DSP who implements these plans with the individual. So, for example, an HCBS DSP might work with an individual who has identified wanting to expand their readings skills as a goal. That DSP will be responsible for assembling resources and reviewing lessons to enable this plan. Many of our DSPs can list dozens of career highlights centered on small breakthroughs that occurred as they have helped to support an individual achieve goals large and small!

A Tour Guide

For many people who choose our residential program, activities based in their communities are the best and most practical way to experience their world. Trying a new type of food, seeing a film in the theater, spending time in a local park; these are valuable and fun highlights for a person working on a new goal of skill. It is the DSP who helps arrange these trips, drives everyone to the event, ensures safety, and above all, enjoys a fun day out in the places we all call home. Springbrook DSPs have brought program participants on over 1,000 trips this year alone!

A Partner in Wellness

DSPs can play a significant role in an individual’s care. They are engaged in meal-time planning, trips to see medical providers, passing prescribed medications at regular intervals, and when needed they may assist or support a person with daily personal care (like bathing, showering, or brushing teeth and hair). DSPs can also have a significant influence on healthy behavior. Their job is not to instruct or demand wellness, but instead to present healthy choices. Making exercise, food options, and good sleep patterns a viable option for a person helps to keep people happy and healthy so that they can focus on social and vocational outcomes, not medical or personal care.

A Communications Hub

A large part of many DSP positions is precise record-keeping. Everything from medical and behavioral logs, to dietary, financial, and personal schedules are items that need to be documented and safely stored. This documentation is a primary responsibility for DSP, and what keeps Springbrook accountable to the people we serve, their families, and our state oversight agencies. DSPs are responsible for making sure an accurate record follows an individual from the time they meet up with a person until the time they part. As a steward of state and federal funds, the DSP is the first line in ensuring that appropriated funds get used in the way intended and that a person’s plans are followed as they should be.

An Empathetic Back-Up

More than anything, a DSP has empathy. They know when to step in, when to stay out, and how to hold dignity at the center of their support. The people who choose Springbrook as a service provider are men, women, and children who need specific supports and services so they can live their lives to the best of their abilities. A DSP is there, sometimes 24/7/365, sometimes a few hours per week, to offer that support. These staff provide a helping hand when requested and appropriate and make a difference for someone that chooses our programs.

A Career for today and tomorrow

Direct Service Providers receive training both when hired, as well as throughout their career at Springbrook. There are over 25 different courses a person must pass, as well as a 4-day medical administration course (with several hours of at-home study) that DSP receives during New Employee Orientation (NEO). After NEO, it is the responsibility of each staff member to track recertification dates for eight dimensions that Springbrook and the state of NY deem necessary to perform suitably in the position.

These courses are not what make a DSP great, however. These are only tools Springbrook provides to ensure technical success. What makes a DSP great is understanding their role with the person or people whom they support. A DSP is warm, but not a friend. A DSP is helpful, but not a crutch. A DSP offers choices but does not choose. A DSP identifies issues but does not always solve them. Ultimately, a DSP is a resource, trained and supported by Springbrook, to partner the hundreds of people who choose our programs.

Springbrook also provides opportunities to transform a job into a career. Options like internal management training, continuing education, and employer-paid degree programs with two different institutes of higher education offer DSP a wide variety of growth. Many DSP advance to become coordinators, supervisors, and managers, having careers lasting multiple decades with increasing amounts of responsibility. Springbrook knows that investing in our human resources pays the highest dividends, and seeing happy smiles throughout our programs confirm the value of a well trained and appreciated staff!

If you think you might be interested in becoming a DSP at Springbrook, click here to apply today, or join us at a career eventsoon!

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