Why do you want to work at West Mont?
I asked that question many times while trying to put together a real picture of what a direct support staff (DSSs) job looked like. My goal was to update the job description for recruitment of new DSS staff. I had no idea that the question was the most difficult one to ask and have answered.
DSSs are at the heart of West Mont’s work. DSSs provide the day-in, day-out assistance to help people stay healthy, happy and active in their communities.
Sounds nice, right? But direct support also sometimes involves tasks that aren’t as engaging or glamourous. Depending upon the level of personal need, direct support may involve cleaning and scrubbing kitchens and bathrooms, helping people use the toilet and shower and, for those West Mont serves who are incontinent, changing clothes and undergarments several times a day. All the while helping the clients to live the best life they can.
Successful DSSs must also develop great people skills. On the job, they learn to redirect people’s negative behaviors (such as hitting themselves or others) toward positive behaviors. They learn to answer questions in ways that don’t cause unnecessary anxiety. They manage a multitude of different behaviors in ways that would amaze you.
They also often mean the world to someone who relies on them. A DSS’s familiar face and soothing voice can bring smiles that no one else can prompt. They can inspire the confidence that brings change to a person’s life. They can be more than they knew they could because someone truly needs them. Not only does that someone need them, but we find that our DSS’s look at our clients as their family, with a love and compassion that is immeasurable.
It’s not an easy job. But for people who know it’s their life’s work, it’s the only job.
When I asked DSSs about the difficult aspects, they deflected the question like skilled politicians and chose, instead, to talk about what they love.
People. Specifically, people with developmental disabilities.
Eventually I did find people who would answer the questions and talk about what I classify as difficult parts of the job. But more than that, I found inspiration. Even when talking about those aspects of the job, they still made it sound like great work.
I often think we find what we look for. Successful DSSs look for ways to make a difference. They find them. In doing so, they also find happiness and satisfaction.