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TRC launches online career development academy for Direct Support Professionals

Submitted Photo Annmarie Bonfiglio-Davis, left, a direct support professional at the Edgewater Day Program, and Jill Suter, program supervisor, discuss the E-Badge Academy certification process.

The Resource Center has implemented the latest initiative supporting its status as a national leader in the development of direct support professional career ladders with the launch of the NADSP E-Badge Academy.

For more than a decade, TRC has worked with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals to provide opportunities for eligible employees to earn multiple levels of national certification. In 2014 The Resource Center received a Moving Mountains Award, which recognizes organizations that use best practices in direct support workforce development that result in improved outcomes for people with disabilities.

The traditional NADSP certification process has long been the gold standard as a demonstration of a direct support professional’s knowledge, values and skills in a selected set of competency expectations. Over the past decade, the NADSP has realized a need to respond to the many time demands that can impede upon the ability of DSP certification candidates to develop a robust portfolio for submission at the end of their credentialing journey. Also influential when considering change was a commitment to the reality that today’s DSP is guided by a code of ethics and a need to possess a greater range of skills and knowledge than ever before to help people reach positive outcomes and live quality lives in the communities of their choice.

Toward that end, NADSP retired the traditional certification process in January to make way for the launch of the NADSP E-Badge Academy. The E-Badge Academy is housed online using the Web Courseworks platform. This makes E-Badge Academy attractive to DSPs who often have few minutes to spare in the course of a day, given with their work schedules and home-life responsibilities.

E-Badge Academy participants work at a self-developed pace to create and submit examples of competency demonstrations from an array of skill sets based on core competencies established by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Each learner will earn a total of 50 E-Badges from a catalog featuring skills such as “Building on Strengths,” “Community Safety” and “Cultural Reflections.” Required E-Badges will also be achieved for the milestones of 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100 cumulative hours completed using the accredited learning management system Relias.

Learners receive credit for competency throughout the process, including stipends from TRC as they achieve each of the three levels of national certification. Certifications at the DSP-I and II levels are obtained as learners reach specific criteria of E-Badge accomplishment, leading to the highest level of national certification, DSP-III.

The 25 open slots for TRC’s E-Badge Academy filled quickly. Early reviews suggest the academy is a success.

“I am loving my E-Badge Academy experience so far. The technology is easy to use, and things move along quickly,” said Aimee Salvo-Boron, a DSP at The Resource Center’s Edgewater Day Program on Eighth Street in Jamestown. “I believe it is making me a better DSP, because it helps me grow in my profession and have a bigger impact on the people I support.”

“I absolutely love the online platform. It is user friendly, and I’ve already completed some E-Badges using my phone,” said Katie Cleland, a medical aide at TRC’s home on Chandler Street in Jamestown. “I truly believe this course will further my current knowledge and understanding of being a DSP. Having a better understanding of the code of ethics will tremendously help with promoting more growth for individuals we support.”

TRC officials are pleased with employees’ response to the E-Badge Academy and the prospect that staff who undergo the certification training will provide even better supports to people with disabilities.

“The Resource Center is excited to support direct support professionals in achieving this national recognition,” said Michele Albaugh, director of recruitment, learning and development. “This certification signifies a commitment to the profession and to the competency standards held in highest regards by the NADSP. As an employer, we are proud to have employees striving for this recognition. We know that as members of our workforce earn this recognition, the supports provided will be elevated as well. It is a win-win for all involved. The Resource Center is proud of its workforce and the work DSPs do to support people in having a great life, one rich in experiences and opportunities.”

NADSP certification offers several benefits. DSPs benefit by learning and applying evidence-based skills and knowledge in the workplace. Organizations employing certified DSPs can provide stronger assurances of quality and can market their employment of nationally certified staff. People receiving supports from certified DSPs have the advantage of partnering with highly trained professionals committed to supporting them using ethical and effective interventions. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that employees who complete rigorous credential programs stay on the job longer and provide a higher quality of support.

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