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DSP (Direct Support Professional) Shortage

Meet Becky and Elly

It’s a spring morning, and the birds are already awake and chirping. Becky is talking about what she should wear and what sounds good for breakfast. Elly helps Becky to get a shower, get dressed, and prepare to eat. Together, they talk about their plans for that day.

Elly is one of Becky’s Direct Service Professionals (DSPs).

What is a Direct Support Professional
A rewarding career, DSPs work directly with individuals who have a developmental or intellectual disability.  They provide support, helping a person lead a self-directed life within their homes and communities.

“I can spend quality time with the individuals I serve, truly getting to know them. What they like and dislike,” states Elly, “I can see I am making a difference.”

Individuals and their families rely on DSPs to help with care needs. DSPs are also known to serve such roles as advocate, nurse, social worker, and teacher.

“I get assistance with regular activities of the day,” shares Becky. “Also, I get help in going out to eat or to shop. I like to shop until I drop.”

The Labor Crisis
The profession is fulfilling; however, there is not enough staff.  As a nation, we are facing a labor shortage crisis.

The 2019 Staff Stability Survey Report, released in 2020 by National Core Indicators, reports a 42.8% weighted average turnover rate nationally for direct support roles. Those who become DSPs feel called to the profession and the work it entails; however, many find they must leave for financial reasons.

The national median hourly wage for a DSP is $12 (National Core Indicators, 2020). DSPs have described having to work multiple jobs or applying for government assistance to support their own families. They also report leaving the profession due to minimal benefits, limited training, the absence of professional recognition and status, and high stress and demand, as shared in a 2017 report compiled by the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

The Need is Greater Than Ever
The ability to meet an individual’s needs is more urgent now than ever before.  There is an increase in individuals with disabilities who need and receive services. We are also seeing people with disabilities living longer, having healthier and productive lives.

If the labor shortage trend continues, it will lead to fewer qualified professionals being available to provide services to the individuals who need them. Fewer DSPs being available could lead to increased mistakes, frustration, and burnout for those remaining DSPs.

Ultimately it could lead to a lack of quality of care provided and harm independence and integration into the greater community for the individual served.

Addressing the Need
The industry is getting creative to recruit and retain DSPs. Organizations have started to increase starting wages, offer incentives like referral bonus programs, host annual DSP appreciation weeks, and provide additional perks.

“We know that if we want to provide exceptional support for the individuals we serve, we need to be an exceptional employer to our team members,” shares Tim Neville, President, and CEO of Echoing Hills Village. “It is part of what drives us to continue to brainstorm ways to show value and our appreciation to our staff.”

Consider Becoming a Direct Service Professional
Elly encourages others to consider a career as a DSP. It is not something she thought she could do before coming to Echoing Hills; however, she quickly fell in love with the work.

“It is not what I expected,” shares Elly, “You see the individual’s abilities and accomplishments. You play a part in their success. It is rewarding.”

“It would be hard without Elly and others like her,” states Becky. “She helps me. She is like a sister to me.”

Join Echoing Hills
We encourage you to find out more about Echoing Hills and the career opportunities available. Rewarding careers that make a difference!



President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. “America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis:  Effects on People with Intellectual Disabilities, Families, Communities and the U.S. Economy”. (2017), National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals,  Accessed February 4, 2021.

National Core Indicators. “2019 National Core Indicators Staff Stability Survey Report”. (2020), National Core Indicators, Accessed February 4, 2021.



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