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  • TRC launches online career development academy for Direct Support Professionals

    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 NADSP (the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals) to provide opportunities for eligible employees to earn multiple levels of national certification.  TRC’s commitment to workforce development was recognized nationally in 2014 when the agency 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 professioinal’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 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.

    Here are profiles of our first employees to have achieved DSP-I certification through E-Badge Academy:

    Aimee Salvo-Boron proudly holds her certificate while posing with Jill Suter, Supervisor of the Edgewater Day Program.

    Aimee Salvo-Boron
    Aimee, a Direct Support Professional at our Edgewater Day Program in Jamestown, was the first TRC employee to earn DSP-I Level Certification through the E-Badge Academy.  Aimee had to meet several requirements to become eligible to be considered for the DSP-I Certification.  Firstly, she committed to perform her duties in a professional and ethical manner by submitting her commitment to the NADSP Code of Ethics.  As a result, she was awarded an E-Badge for Code of Ethics Commitment.

    She also had to provide a transcript verifying the completion of at least 50 hours of NADSP-accredited.  Aimee then submitted testimonials supporting her skills and competency in 11 additional areas of performance.  Each submission required her to provide testimony responding to several prompts discussing the E-Badge area of focus, with specifics such as how she applies the skills; how it has a positive impact on the people she supports; and reflection on how her application of her skills aligns with the Code of Ethics.

    Once she had received approval from NADSP E-Badge submission reviewers for her first 15 E-Badge submissions, she was eligible to submit for the DSP-I Level Certification, which was awarded to her the same day.

    Aimee has appreciated the technology-based process and the pace at which a learner can progress toward national certifications.  “I am loving my E-Badge Academy experience so far.  The technology is easy to use, and things move along quickly,” she said.  “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.”

    It is now full steam ahead as Aimee continues to work toward her DSP-II Level Certification using the NADSP E-Badge Academy provided by TRC.

    Jenn Rolfe

    Jenn Rolfe
    Jenn, Direct Support Professional Lead for our A-2 home on Foote Avenue in Jamestown has been motivated, validated and reflective during her journey thus far.  She was motivated to get off to a strong start at E-Badge Academy because she is beginning her second year at Jamestown Community College, creating a busy schedule with work and home life.  She feels participating in E-Badge Academy has already helped her become a better DSP.  She finds the online platform to be user friendly, and she acknowledges she has learned a lot.

    Jenn feels validated because E-Badge Academy has helped her recognize and connect the many skills she already demonstrates daily to the national competency expectations of a DSP.  The program offers a depth of detail that helps Jenn refine her skills, especially in the areas of de-escalation and developing skills to better handle stressful days.  She noted that her E-Badge Academy experience is providing her with helpful information to better understand and respond to the needs of a new person she is supporting.

    Jenn says that reflecting on the E-Badge prompts for each submission has helped her think outside the box, recognize all the great things she’s done for the people she supports, and remind her of why she does what she does.

    Not slowing down, Jenn is already well on her way to achieving the DSP-II level certification.

    Angel Weaver
    Angel, a Direct Support Professional at our home in Summit Avenue in Lakewood, has enjoyed E-Badge Academy for making her a better employees, and for the flexibility the online training program provides.

    Angel Weaver

    “This is so exciting and has been an amazing opportunity for me, and I am very thankful,” Angel said. “The E-Badge Academy is absolutely fantastic. It’s so accessible and practical.  Earning the E-Badges is not only really fun, but as I am posting more and more testimonies I am just loving my job that much more.  I know I am becoming a better DSP for the individuals I support.  I am getting more in depth in my work as a DSP. I am getting more in depth in my work as a DSP and sharing in my testimonies some of my experiences and the ways I have helped and supported the individuals that I have had the pleasure to work with.

    “This program is amazing and as a mother of two young children juggling so much the accessibility of the Academy and being able to do the program on my time makes it so much easier to accomplish and achieve my goals.  I don’t have a favorite E-Badge submission because I have really enjoyed them all.  Every submission I have completed has really made me open my eyes that much more to what I am accomplishing as a DSP and what I am doing in the lives of the individuals I support.”


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