Monday, November 19, 2012

The Paycheck People

Direct Support PAYCHECK PEOPLE.  DSPPs....yikes o rama!!!   This sounds like a negative post is about to occur.  I would disagree. Here is why....

Over the course of the past few years  I have facilitated dozens, if not hundreds, of Direct Support Professional Public Forums all around the country. During these sessions Direct Support Professionals are given the rare opportunity to talk about their craft and their noble profession in an open and non judgmental yet facilitated manner.  Generally there is a topic or theme that start the sessions and often the DSPs expand and dialog well past our allotted time for the session.  We often hate to end these rich and wonderful conversations, but DSPs must get back to their "shifts".

Almost always there is mention of "The Paycheck People".  From California to NY. North Dakota to Texas......DSPs speak of the "Paycheck People". It sounds like a lost tribe of humans who wander from agency to agency...provider to provider in search of the holy paycheck.  Well, I suppose it is not far from that, this notion of "The Paycheck People".

DSPs will describe these folks as doing direct support work at the bare minimum standard. DSPPs (Direct Support Paycheck People) are seemingly in all organizations and are the staff who no one seems to like. They are staff who DO NOT know the people they support.  They are often staff who bring morale and spirits down. They are staff who are NOT following and abiding to the policies of the organization, the rules of the game and often will be the texters, cell phone users, sleepers and late-comers.....oh, the Paycheck People are known to call out frequently, often around this time of year....the holidays....(I guess they have to spend the money they are getting).....

One more thing...Paycheck People do not follow one of the main tenets in the NADSP Code of Ethics; Integrity and Responsibility.  It appears to me that if the Paycheck People begin to follow this part of the Code, then we will all be well.  If Direct Support Professionals deny this ethical obligation, then we must do all in our legal and moral power to remove them from our field. If you have some paycheck people running around (they probably don't do much of that) but figuratively if they are running around your organization, then get them out!!!  I will close this entry with the hallowed code of Integrity and Responsibility. 

It states:
As a DSP, I will support the mission and vitality of my profession to assist people in leading self-directed lives and to foster a spirit of partnership with the people I support, other professionals, and the community.
As a DSP, I will:
  • Be conscious of my own values and how they influence my professional decisions.
  • Maintain competency in my profession through learning and ongoing communication with others.
  • Assume responsibility and accountability for my decisions and actions.
  • Actively seek advice and guidance on ethical issues from others as needed when making decisions.
  • Recognize the importance of modeling valued behaviors to co-workers, persons receiving support, and the community at-large.
  • Practice responsible work habits.


  1. I'm curious to see if there will ever be a downgrading in the numbers of "DSPPs"; what I find even more curious is the mentality among the "DSPPs" that I have spoken to (not that I know any, of course, those mythical creatures) is actually almost a rationalization along the lines of the Code; it is felt that "we" (and PLEASE do not put me in this category, this is their quote) "as DSPs are supposed to give our individuals as normal a life as possible," "guarded and charmed and kept safe as it is" , making sure that while no harm comes to them, while in residence, "what goes on there is what goes on in any home across America."
    What this seems to translate into is: two out of three DSPs are sitting on the couch watching tv, while the third is running around doing dishes with residents, laundry and cleaning with residents, cooking with residents, showering residents... wow... that one DSP must be getting tired... there's still ADLs to work on... and inclusion... whew... uh-oh! A conflict! Who might be too stressed out to handle this situation properly, but is most likely going to be left to do it?
    Sorry, getting off subject. Ultimately, while we DSPs shoulder a lot, and we support our individuals - they are our first loyalty, you know- we also need to remember that we need to support each other, too, we often forget that in the day-to-day grind. Try a new approach with a less than enthusiastic coworker, it may pay off; get to know them the way you get to know your individuals. Sometimes it's routine, a staff member has been in one place for so long it seems all the same- shake it up! If you've been there that long, it's either a worthwhile "job" to you, or you've gotten too comfortable- because we all know it isn't the money. :) If you love it, remember why, and start acting like it again. If you don't, please, move on- the ones affected ultimately are the ones you are supposed to be serving.
    We're lucky that there is such a raise in awareness and change happening towards good, better policies for a lot more agencies than I've ever THOUGHT of in NYS alone much less anywhere else in the country, etc for PWDD; many, MANY people doing so much hard work to get this going, and acknowledging the hard work of the DSPs, trying to get us recognized, while there are still some managing to bruise the skin of the apple. This is going to happen, of course, anywhere for anything. It'll take time and work to perfect and polish to hit pay dirt. :) Gah! There IS a point! lol The point being- how can someone really be somewhere for a paycheck, when there really isn't one? The money we make isn't really all that great... Even the couch-sitters eventually have to get up and do SOMETHING!!
    Sorry John :) For being preachy and long winded. Hope you enjoyed your tour!

  2. That ended abruptly, my apologies. Of course, we know that the couch sitters don't end up doing anything, although we do hope they end up following suit (with their company's corporate compliance, policies, codes of conduct/ethics). If they find that they can't, hopefully they can find something that suits their likes or needs better- their actions in this setting doesn't help any situation.

  3. Corrinne,
    Great reaction and response. It is exactly the conversation I hope to have and want others who read this to have. Couch-sitters, texters, TV-Watchers etc...whether they make 10 bucks an hour or 50 bucks an hour they have primary obligation, as Direct Support Professionals, to adhere and model the Code of Ethics. Yup, I agree that DSPs need to support and care for one another as you indicate. I believe more strongly that self-discipline and ethical practice is more crucial when faced, as a DSP, with a DSPP.....thanks for reading...

  4. Correct. If a DSP feels they aren't "paid enough for all of the included job duties", they should find something a little more suitable to their liking/needs, a little less demanding; if their heart isn't in it, please, the same. It seems a lot to take on, and it seems to be a gross simplification, (I know a lot of people don't like when I say this, but it works well for me, I just keep the dynamics out of it) but I liken it to a family; if you work as a family unit, you will work well. Gears and cogs, if that's better, but it's also so very cliche :) With the family model, you don't use a "head" like a mom or dad, there is no "power" figure, but the working components are still one unit; you have those that are the shoulder to cry on, the meal makers, the "community-inclusion-ers"-to name a few, for example- all not assigned roles, of course, just what people and their personalities naturally gravitate towards. And in a well working unit (family) there is support on every single level. It is not impossible. I have seen it work.
    To try to not "give up" on our less than energetic or enthusiastic coworkers, we try to match what they like with what needs to be done. In residence, couch sitting was encouraged for the couch sitters- because that way laundry was folded WHILE wrestling, food network, Sanford and Son, and Jersey Shore was on TV- chores being accomplished AND the individuals were for a change NOT isolating in their rooms, interacting and socializing, having fun with each other and staff. In Dayhab, the possibilities become even more endless, it's virtually impossible to have a DSPP.
    I know some of what I wrote yesterday wasn't really clear, I had this great idea and point, but was SO tired from my day, I'd make a statement and keep going with no clarity. :) I hope you get more responses than just me lol I'd like to see what other people think!

  5. Great post John. Sadly, I encounter DSPP's in every agency that I work with. The funny thing about it is this: EVERYBODY in the agency knows exactly who they are. It's no mystery. They aren't fooling anyone. And yet, they are allowed to continue providing their unique version of "support" because they tiptoe that line between acceptable work performance and engaging in truly egregious behavior that would land any one of us in the unemployment line. In other words, they don't do anything bad enough to get themselves fired, but they sure don't meet quality standards outlined in the Code of Ethics-or anywhere else for that matter.

    From my perspective, and this is a large part of the message that I'm delivering these days, it's incumbent upon the agencies themselves to make it clear to all those that they employ that they recognize an uncomfortable, but non-negotiable, reality: As a DSP, you will be underpaid. Your job will be incredibly difficult. And on occasion, you will lack certain supports and resources that would make your job easier. But at no time will it be acceptable to use those realities as excuses for sub-par performance. You've chosen an extraordinarily difficult line of work that *very few* people are truly cut out for. The rewards, while rarely financial in nature, can be life-changing. But you have to be willing to work within the confines of the current, very challenging, hyper-regulated, often inefficient system that is forced upon us in order to experience them. The very best of the best understand this, accept it, and make magic happen!

  6. I have to honestly agree with the first paragraph; actually, I agree with it all, but it usually IS widely known whom will or won't do what, and the line IS walked and not crossed, giving no definable reason for termination.
    My old director once said to me "Corrinne, it isn't a job, it's a calling." I think he was correct. I always call my paycheck a bonus, compensation- I get rewarded everyday. I like your POV, Dan!