JoCo on the Go Podcast: Learn about being a Direct Support Professional

On JoCo on the Go, episode #133, we take a deep dive into the job of a Direct Support Professional at Johnson County Developmental Supports. DSPs play a crucial role in helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live and work in the community. Have some interest in this career? Two DSPs and an individual served by JCDS explain what the job is like and why it is so vital. Learn more about an upcoming day of virtual interviews on April 12, including a $1,000 signing bonus.


Look for JoCo on the Go where you regularly listen to podcasts.


Time Subject
00:40 Introduction
01:53 What is the job of a Direct Support Professional? What's a typical day like?
06:01 How does a DSP help people in their homes?
09:47 Training to be a DSP
11:47 Why be a DSP?
15:11 The typical day for a DSP who works in employment
17:13 How does it feel to work in a job that helps people?
17:45 What makes a good DSP?



Become a Direct Support Professional

JCDS Facebook Page


Jody Hanson  00:00

Direct Support Professionals play a crucial role in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Whether it's job coaching skills, teaching, help with household tasks or assisting with appropriate medical care, DSPs are so important to help people live and work in the community and achieve some independence. On April 12, a Virtual Job Interview could be your doorway into this rewarding and fulfilling career.

Announcer  00:26

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Jody Hanson  00:40

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm Jody Hanson, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County. On April 12, you can take part in a virtual job interview to apply to be a Direct Support Professional with Johnson County developmental supports. This agency of Johnson County Government has a very important mission to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, focusing on their abilities, providing choice driven supports, and advocating alongside people to live and work in our community. JCPS can't do it without DSPs. Joining us today to talk about what a DSP is, and what the job is, are Cherice Dingman, who is a DSP, with Johnson County developmental supports, and we also have Gary with us, Gary is an individual served by JCDS. So we want to hear what Gary thinks is important about staff. So why don't we get started? Thank you so much for being here today. So Cherice and Gary, just talk a little bit about what is a DSP? What is a staff person at JCDS, what is that job like?

Gary  01:53

Well, I think some of it can be challenging. It seems like it's getting harder and harder and harder to find people that really want to work, you're forever committed to a big challenge.

Cherice Dingman  02:20

I would definitely say that it's I love working at JCDS, I love working with the individuals. Being a DSP is a great thing in my life, coming to work, and being able to see the individuals meeting different people and everything. I think that's one of the highlights of coming to work and being a DSP, and also being able to support the different individuals and helping get them get through the challenges that they face. Every day, especially with COVID and everything. I think that's been pretty good.

Jody Hanson  03:02

I think you guys both make a great point about the importance of that job. So Cherice, maybe talking about maybe not so much during COVID. But maybe before that, and hopefully moving forward. Just talk about what is it typical day like for a DSP, what can someone expect if they have that job.

Cherice Dingman  03:22

So a typical day for us is it starts at our day here at Day Services, it starts about eight o'clock. Individuals, they start coming in and between 8 and 830. Some of them arrive by bus, some of them arrive by their guardian, or parents may bring them in the car. And then they just come in, we greet them, we ask them, you know, how their weekend was, how their day was, how their night was, things like that. And then I'm in the area I work in, I work in volunteer services. And so about 9, between 9 and 11. We start our day by doing volunteer activities, and some of the activities that we do are we’ll sew pillows will make dog treats. We will decorate Meals on Wheels bags, and just various other volunteer activities. We also might go on an outing in the morning. So we might go somewhere like to a park or we might go take our volunteer stuff and take it to different organizations that we make them for. We also might do something fun. So we might go to the movies. Really, it's whatever the individuals plan for the week. We try to get their input as much as they would like. So basically what they want, what they want to do. And then so we'll do that in the morning. We'll have lunch so we'll help support them with lunch and everything. They bring their own lunch in. And so we help them, you know, warm it up and everything. And then afterwards in the afternoon, we'll either do another craft project, a volunteer project, or we'll go on an outing. We also have days where we do fun stuff. So we might have like karaoke for the day, we might like have a dance party in the afternoon, we might just, you know, have a, like a movie day where we put on a movie and just, you know, just fun stuff that we do. Try to get everybody active. We do like stretches, exercising just a lot of different things. So that's basically what our typical day kind of looks like. And then everybody goes home between, I'd say, three and four. So that's just, you know, fun stuff, I guess, all day long.

Jody Hanson  06:01

That sounds like a very rewarding way to spend your day to spend your workday. And so Gary, I know that you live in a home where you have staff helping you at home. So maybe talk a little bit about what kinds of things do your staff help you with at home?

Gary  06:19

Well, they help me with kind of whatever.

Jody Hanson  06:29

Do you feel like staff kind of help you with your day-to-day chores or tasks in your house? Do they help you with food or other things?

Gary  06:41

The good thing is cooking dinner. There's yeah, there's no set time that you have to you know, but there's certain type of things that you do have to get out for occasionally, like, doctor's appointments. Things like that.

Jody Hanson  07:11

Cherice, maybe you can tell us also a little bit more, I believe you work in day services. But do you have some information about what a residential Direct Support Professional would do?

Cherice Dingman  07:23

Yeah, so I've worked a lot in residential and I've helped out a lot. So usually in like a residential home, it's kind of like being at your own home, except for you're just there helping support the individuals in their, in their home. So you'll help them you know, with meals, help cook a meal, you might have to help feed somebody their meal, and then you'll help them with showering, grooming, brushing teeth, anything that you would typically do at your home, and you'd help support it in them, you would just help them at their home. They also need help with getting meds and then also helping, you know, take individuals to doctor's appointments, if that's needed or physical therapy.

Gary  08:11

Or sometimes you may have to take a person to the hospital.

Cherice Dingman  08:23

Yes. Yes, helping support somebody if you know they have to be in the hospital in a hospital stay. If you know they have to go to the ER something taking them. They're also in residential. They’ll take them out, like maybe they want to go out to eat for you know, like a Friday night they want to go out to eat so you would take them out to eat or they want to do something fun on the weekends. Like go visit a zoo or you know something that's going on in the community, you'll take them out and do that kind of stuff with them. So not always all work, but just fun stuff also.

Jody Hanson  09:02

Gary, what are some of the most fun things that you've done with staff in your house?

Gary  09:07

Our house hasn't really been out, except for recently. When the COVID kind of came down. Saturday we went to a new place that's called Whataburger. And they serve hamburgers. Fries, Gee, I don't know. I do know they're open like 24 hours a day.

Cherice Dingman  09:42

Whataburger sounds like a good, a good place that you guys went?

Jody Hanson  09:47

That sounds fun! Cherice, can you talk a little bit about the training. Once you get this position? Is there training. When you start and maybe ongoing training. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Cherice Dingman  09:59

Yeah, so when you start, they have training set up for you. So I think it's like, you'll have two weeks of like, classroom training. And then they'll also have training for you wherever your job is going to be, whether it's in residential or day services, you'll learn on the job. As far as like the classroom type of things, you'll go through MAT, we have dementia training, we also have med training, and they'll go over how to give meds, when to give meds, what type of meds are being given. And they also go over as far as meds like, how to give insulin, how to set up things like if someone needs help with a Gtube, or colostomy bag, care like that. We also do trainings for I think the basic ones are MAT, meds, dementia. I can think we there also, like a few other trainings that we do also, but they're, they pretty much prepare you pretty well, I think and go over a lot of things. They also will go over how to use lifts in the homes, and also like using the lift in the car and things like that.

Jody Hanson  11:26

So it sounds like you get a lot of training. So you don't have to come into this job knowing everything.

Cherice Dingman  11:32

No. And, you know, they're pretty good at training. And then there's also staff here that, you know, like I said, you'll get the on the job training, and they're pretty confident in what they're doing. And so they'll train you also.

Jody Hanson  11:47

So let's say someone heard about being a Direct Support Professional on a media story, or maybe from this podcast. And they're thinking, wow, that sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I don't I don't know if it's the right job for me. For both of you, how would you convince someone that they should give it a try?

Cherice Dingman  12:08

I would just say when I first started to be a DSP, I didn't know anything about it knew nothing about it at all. And I had a woman that I work with her daughter was in services. So she was like, you know, they, they need help, they need support, and you'd be a good person, just so you know, go. So I started. And I would just say to convince somebody, you know, it's very rewarding. It is challenging at times. But at the end of the day, you know, it's nice to see the smiles on the individuals faces that you work with. And to know that, you know, you come to work and basically come to work to make them happy to make them smile, and it's worth it at the end of the day. And if somebody is like, Oh, I don't know, even if you're just considering it, you just probably be if, if you're hesitant to work, it means that you probably care about people and that you know, you want to do a good job. So I'd say they're probably a great person to come in and, you know, come and work.

Gary  13:21

But like you said, times, times are hard for residential. I mean, there's, there's just so many opportunities that you can interact with individuals,

Jody Hanson  13:46

Gary, when you think about some of the staff you've had through the years and you think about your favorite ones are the ones who you just liked being with the best. What were they like, what kind of person makes a good staff person or a good DSP?

Gary  14:02

Well, when when, when they're very upbeat and want want to help you, want to take you to doctor's appointments, want to make sure that when you do get those appointments set up that you respect the doctors or who's ever you ever time you're taking, you want them to know. You want to be feeling good, working good and everything like that.

Jody Hanson  14:54

That's a great description of the kind of staff that we're looking for. Thank you for sharing that. Well Cherice, Gary, thank you so much for joining us today. And good. Good luck with the virtual interviews, hope you get some good DSPs from that.

Cherice Dingman  15:09

Thank you so much.

Jody Hanson  15:11

Thanks very much. Joining us now is Andy Green. He is a Direct Support Professional with JCDS, and he’s here to tell us a little bit about the work he does. Andy, thanks for joining us. So Andy, tell us a little bit about your job. What a typical day is like for you as a Direct Support Professional?

Andy Green  15:35

Well, I'm I work in employment, so actually, my day is a little bit different than, than a CMS person. Because everyday where I'm assisting individuals in doing their jobs, basically. So every day we help other people do their job and receive a paycheck. So that could be as little as just setting up work for somebody, like give them the materials and they handle it, or maybe we some, sometimes some individuals, we have to modify the job a little bit for them to be able to complete it. But it just depends. Yeah, we're much more work oriented. But we also, when there is no work we do downtime activities, which is usually by committee is the way I've been doing it. So I just take a vote from everybody, because I figured out the democratic process, and see what everyone wants to do that day. And it's worked out pretty well.

Jody Hanson  16:28

So tell us a little bit about when you talk about work, what kind of work are the individuals you support doing? What kind of jobs talk us through what that looks like?

Andy Green  16:38

Oh, like our core jobs right now are document destruction, where the staff will go out to different locations and pick up shredding that needs to be shredded, and then the individuals will place it on the shredding thing, shredding, there's a big belt. And basically, they just help it get shredded. And our other job is Great Plains Laboratories, which we assemble urine kits for them. And we do other versions of it. But basically, it's labeling boxes, placing the items in the boxes in the correct order. And just making sure that everything's the way it's supposed to be.

Jody Hanson  17:13

So the fact that you are helping people work, earning a paycheck, be more independent. As a staff person that sort of helps that happen. How does that make you feel?

Andy Green  17:25

Well, you know, you're making a little difference in someone's world every day when you come in. And usually they know after a while, you know, the individuals realize that's what you're doing. And they're just like, happy to see you every day, like every day I come to work, even if I'm not in the best mood when I get to work. Everyone's just cheerful and happy to see you every day. So that's, that's kind of nice.

Jody Hanson  17:45

So what what kind of qualifications do you think, make a good DSP? Or at least a good candidate for a DSP? What kind of person is JCDS looking for?

Andy Green  17:56

You know, that's kind of a tough question. And I think the big base qualification, I would say, which anybody has, if they're using it, is the ability to listen, because I think a lot of times, in our job, we just assume we know everything, and we don't, you know, ask the individuals what they need what they want. And the more we do that, the more we're enriching their lives. So I say that's the biggest thing. And just the ability to change jobs, do multiple tasks. At the same time, multitasking, at least in my job is very important, because I might be helping someone work and then someone might need help in the restroom, and then somebody else needs help with something else. And it's all happening simultaneously. So multitasking is probably a good test, good thing to be able to do. And just, you know, be understanding, too. I think that's understanding just differences in people because everyone's different and a little more pronounced here. So just be an understanding of that.

Jody Hanson  18:54

And I'll ask you the same question I asked earlier. If there's someone that's watching this, or maybe saw a media story about your virtual interviews coming up, and they're sort of on the fence, they're not sure that maybe this is the job for them, but they're intrigued. How would you convince somebody to at least take a chance and investigate it a little bit?

Andy Green  19:15

Well, I mean, like I said before, like, with, with what, what I'm doing specifically, every day, you're helping someone make a little bit of money. And there's a, when you when you get to pass out the paychecks to the individuals every time and you know, maybe the amounts aren’t massive, but they're just so thrilled and happy with themselves, which you know, basically you're making someone's life a little bit better every day. And there's not a whole lot of jobs where you can say that.

Jody Hanson  19:40

Well, I think that is a great place to close. Thank you so much for talking to us about what that job is like the position of a Direct Support Professional and talking about the kind of person that JCDS would be interested in hiring. So thanks so much for joining us today. We wanted to make sure you had all of the information for JCDS’ upcoming Virtual Job Interviews for Direct Support Professionals. These take place on Tuesday, April 12, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. All of the information you need is available in a few places online at You can also go to the Facebook event, you just can access it from @JoCoJCDS. That's the Facebook page that will link you to the event. A lot of good information there about how the virtual interviews work. There's two links available one where you RSVP and another one where you complete the online application. It's important to know that in addition to a $1,000 Hiring bonus, the starting pay for a DSP with Johnson County developmental support is $15.71 an hour, a lot of good information about wellness and benefits as well. So we just encourage anyone that's interested to go to the website or the Facebook page and learn more about the Virtual Job interviews taking place on Tuesday, April 12. Thank you so much for watching this episode of JoCo on the Go.

Announcer  21:11

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast visit Thanks for listening.

Developmental Supports