Guest Columnist: Kelly Baker | Electronic Badges the New Path to DSP Certification - Penn-Mar

Guest Columnist: Kelly Baker | Electronic Badges the New Path to DSP Certification

Posted on September 25, 2019

By Kelly Baker, Career Ladders Program Coordinator

Since August I have been immersed in my new role as Career Ladders Program Coordinator. As many of you know, this is a career development and credentialing program designed to help improve the skills and earning potential of our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). 

As a follow-up to September’s Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you and our DSPs on the advancements that have been made to the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals’ (NADSP) Career Ladders program since Penn-Mar launched it in 2017. 

The Portfolio-based program that our DSPs initially used to qualify for certification has now been enhanced with the introduction of the NADSP E-Badge Academy, offering DSPs the ability to earn electronic badges as a way to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and value on the job.  

Using an online platform, DSPs seeking recognition and certification for their professional development can submit specific examples, experience and education that highlights their achievements and contributions to human services. 

While the skills and experience earned for an E-Badge may take hours, the submission process now takes only 15-minutes to complete. 

The beauty of this new model is that the process is much more efficient and eliminates the need to spend hours preparing presentations in PowerPoint and sitting in cohort meetings with peers and mentors. 

Although these activities added value for some, they overall stymied progress consuming a lot of valuable time for people who are extremely busy as it is. The end goal of the program is for DSPs to prove how they have mastered skills and apply this new learning with the people they support and the peers they work with every day. 

With the E-Badge program, DSPs know where they stand at any given point in time. For example, they need 15 badges to earn DSP-1, the first level of certification. Should their studies be interrupted by work requirements, illness or personal issues, instead of worrying and being discouraged about hours of work still to be completed, they can pick up where they left off, selecting and submitting work one E-Badge at a time.  

Because it is more of a sequential process to success, DSPs know where they stand in real time, all the while required to master very specific skill-based competencies to be certified. 

For me, in my new role as mentor, transition specialist and¬†recruiter, I find this new E-Badge program a lot more straightforward and manageable than its predecessor. I refer to the¬†program¬†changes as a ‚Äúfacelift.‚ÄĚ Definitely an improvement and one that makes it much easier for me to¬†incite interest and elicit excitement for DSPs to join.¬†

Feedback from DSPs participating in the new program has been very encouraging. They feel it is much more attainable and realistic and can complete the requirements during normal work hours.  

Since the E-Badge Academy was launched, we have had four DSPs certified in only the last two months. Currently we have 56 total participants striving for DSP-I, DSP-II and the DSP-III Specialist designation. 

I am hoping to interest even more of our dedicated DSPs to explore earning their certification and am happy to guide them through the NADSP E-Badge Academy requirements in the hope that they will join ranks with our many amazing certified professionals who have dedicated their lives to supporting people with disabilities.  

We want our DSPs to receive the recognition and financial rewards they deserve as much as they do. This new E-Badge program is going to revolutionize how we are providing direct support care to individuals at Penn-Mar. 

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