Careers: Experience as a DSP can give applicants competitive advantage
Essential qualities of effective government workers are understanding diverse perspectives and supporting inclusivity and equity – these are also essential qualities of effective direct support professionals (DSP). Many government organizations now require applicants to provide evidence of these skills when applying for jobs. Experience working as a DSP can sometimes give applicants a competitive advantage, especially when applying for health, human and social service or education positions.
Michelle Chalin provided direct care to people with disabilities before becoming an administrator for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Here is her story:
What experience did you have in providing direct care?
Prior to my first position as an human services support specialist (HSSS) on the St. Peter Treatment Center campus, I did not have much direct care experience. While in high school in New Orleans, LA, I volunteered as a candy striper at a local hospital and would deliver flowers and meals, and sometimes help feed individuals and visit with them as well. While in college I volunteered here at the treatment center with a group called Wednesday Friends and we’d come out on Wednesday evenings to do activities/recreational programming with patients.
As an HSSS, I assisted residents with their activities of daily living, which included dressing, grooming, bathing, personal hygiene, eating, transfers and using the bathroom. We would also assist with activities. I remember the residents were particularly fond of going outside in the courtyard, not only for the fresh air but also that is where they were allowed to smoke.
What career do you have now?
Since 2008 I’ve been the administrator of the Forensic Nursing Home on the St. Peter Campus.
How does your early experience doing direct care help you to be effective in your current job?
While working as an HSSS/direct care staff with geriatric individuals, I wanted to learn more about aging. It just so happened that Mankato State University had a program in Gerontology. I decided to take a few classes and that led to a master’s degree and licensure as a nursing home administrator. Having worked as a direct care staff, I believe I have a better understanding and appreciation of the role. Working as a direct care staff is where I learned patience, empathy, listening, direct verbal communication and also a greater awareness of my non-verbal communications. I also learned to meet people where they are today, accept them for who they are and do the best job I can to help them.