Most of us want to know that the jobs w#e hold are making a difference in the world. That is the exact purpose of disability services jobs—providing vital services that help people who need them gain or maintain their independence. People who work in disability services have the capability to make positive changes happen every day. If you’re wondering what that might look like, here are just a few examples of the rewarding career opportunities available to people looking to work in disability services.
1. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)
If you’re good at organizing and getting things done and like helping people, you might want to take a serious look at becoming a DSP. DSPs help people with disabilities manage their lives and spend most of their time teaching and guiding. The idea is to help clients learn to do tasks for themselves—but with the extra safety and security of a little help.
DSP jobs are highly individualized to match each client’s needs, capabilities and setting. Some clients need home-based services. Others may participate only in day programs while their family members are at work. Still, others may be part of residential programs. Whether through home or facility-based services, DSPs caring for adults with disabilities share a range of possible responsibilities that must be tailored to fit their client’s physical, mental and emotional abilities and needs.
DSPs typically help clients with everyday needs—many of them with things that most of us take for granted, such as getting up and getting dressed for the day, making and eating a meal or snack, cleaning a room or living spaces, or even going grocery shopping. DSPs often help clients with their living, working and social skills and may accompany them on outings or activities, and appointments. DSPs may also help to ensure that their clients take their medications as directed. While paperwork is a part of any job, for DSPs, it’s also an important way of tracking a person’s progress—look back six months, and you might see just how far you both have come.
2. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
LPNs are state-licensed nurses who work under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse. LPNs typically have an associate’s degree earned from an accredited LPN program. Working with adults with disabilities allows for a number of work formats—from daytime or nighttime shifts at a facility to part-time work or PRN situations in a client’s home. The variety of clients, their specialized needs and various settings allow LPNs a great deal of flexibility in the timing and number of hours they want to work and where those hours are spent.
An LPN’s primary job is to keep their clients comfortable and safe while ensuring that they receive the medical care that their physician has prescribed or charged. That means not only making sure that patients receive and take their medications as directed but also charting, documenting and monitoring medication and supplies to ensure that whatever is needed is available, accounted for and allocated properly.
LPNs often work with DSPs to make sure clients are receiving the proper physical, mental and emotional care but offer much of the medical care that is beyond the scope and skills of a DSP. LPNs are often responsible for wound dressing and bandage changes, blood draws, catheterizations and colostomy changes, tube feedings, and some rehabilitative or range-of-motion exercises, for example.
3. Registered Nurses (RNs)
Similar to LPNs, RNs are state-licensed nurses who work under the supervision of a physician and usually hold a four-year bachelor of science degree. Intellectual and developmental disabilities registered nurses—often simply referred to as “I/DD RNs”—are RNs who have specialized in learning how to meet the unique physical, emotional, mental and medical needs of individuals with disabilities in ways that are productive and appropriate for each individual circumstance.
I/DD RNs work with physicians, therapists and other professionals, as well as patients and their families, to develop plans of action, coordinate care and continue to make recommendations designed for the best possible outcomes. RNs often supervise or have oversight responsibilities when working with LPNs and DSPs to ensure that clients are receiving the prescribed care and to address any needed changes, updates or referrals, as needed.
RNs are important touchstones for patients’ families and other caregivers because they’re often the people directly managing client caseloads, developing and implementing nursing service plans, and coordinating other needed services and care. They’re especially important due to the special health needs and vulnerabilities that individuals with disabilities often have, the challenges of identifying the potential progression of medical issues and the ability to communicate effectively with patients who may have difficulty expressing themselves in appropriate ways.
4. Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professionals (QIDPs)
QIDPs are professionals who develop individual service plans for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities while ensuring that the plan will provide quality services that comply with state and federal licensing and compliance rules and guidelines.
QIDPs have a lot of responsibilities—to clients, to staff, to the clients’ families and community, and to the facility or home care providers. QIDPs carefully survey prospective clients and their families to ensure that individuals will receive the full spectrum of services they are eligible for and would benefit from. They often work with employers and educational institutions to give their clients support or arrange additional services they may need to be successful. They track their clients’ progress and make adjustments as data and observation require.
Working with staff, QIDPs ensure that clients receive proper care on schedule and that staff members receive training and assistance as needed. If problems or conflicts arise, the QIDP may develop alternative strategies that maintain compliance while also resolving challenges or at least mitigating them. On a broader scale, QIDPs often work with program directors and managers as well as representatives of other agencies and organizations offering complimentary services. In general, QIDPs also hold the ability to make critical, valuable decisions that provide clients with the absolute best care and services possible.
Find a Rewarding Career at Arc of Acadiana
Disability services jobs offer workers with a wide range of skills and talents with all sorts of options to work as a team and make a very real difference in their clients’ lives. Because hours often offer flexibility, you can find the fit that works with your schedule and responsibilities. There are even options for the setting in which you work — residential facilities versus day programs versus in-home visits or extended hours. Most importantly, every client is unique in age, abilities and challenges—making finding good matches for DSPs and LPNs, for example, so important.
If you’ve ever considered working in a field where you can form lasting partnerships with clients, enjoy the support of a professional team and experience firsthand the satisfaction of helping others, reach out to Arc of Acadiana. We offer a full range of benefits like health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance as well as 401(k), sick and vacation pay, tuition reimbursement and employee recognition programs. Explore our disability services jobs, then submit your application to take your first step in building a rewarding career helping others live their best lives.