NADSP E-Badge Earner of the Month: Amanda Briskar
Congratulations to Amanda Briskar who has been selected as the September 2023 NADSP E-Badge Academy Earner of the Month.We are recognizing Amanda for her excellent ‘Communication Modes’ E-Badge submission.This badge represents a Direct Support Professionals’ work in using positive and respectful verbal, non-verbal and written communication a way that can be understood by the individual, and actively listens and responds to them in a respectful, caring manner.This badge is part of the Communication CMS Core Competency. It also aligns with the NADSP Competency Area of Communication.
Amanda works as a Direct Service Provider (DSP) at Community Connections in Alaska. The mission of Community Connections is to provide individualized, customer guided supports that encourage independence, community belonging and quality of life.
Amanda’s Experiences With The NADSP E-Badge Academy
The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) recently asked Amanda about her experiences with the NADSP E-Badge Academy. The questions covered how she carries out her work as a direct support professional, the skillsets she demonstrates on a daily basis, the impact that the E-Badge Academy has had on her professional recognition, and how she gets credit for competency.
Describe the story you shared in carrying out that competency:
By the time the story of this competency took place, the woman I had been working with had been traumatized from being in a facility and experiencing neglect after a stroke. She was traumatized. She was mad that people had to take care of her when she was the one who took care of everyone else and she was grieving the life that she had lost. I didn’t know how to communicate with her at first, or how to connect. We were both in awkward places and didn’t understand each other. I used my previous experience with working in a salon, not sure if it would work specifically for her, but needing to find some way to get past the wall she had put up. It worked. And it turned out that she loved being pampered, and a good old girl’s day was just what she needed. When I washed her hair, I let her know what was going to happen next, was gentle with my intentions and movements, and used her cues to ask if she needed a break. If she did, I validated that and let her have a moment. I let her know that I saw her cues and respected them. And at the end, when her hair was clean and all put up, I think she saw a little bit of the person she used to be and it was important to her that someone else saw her too.
Why is this competency so important to DSPs?
This competency is important to other DSPs because it shows that everyone has a story, and there’s a lot that we don’t know when we start working with someone. We know that they need help feeding themselves and getting dressed, but we don’t know who they are as a person and the experiences that shaped them. For me in particular this experience was invaluable because it showed me that some people have experienced extreme trauma from the hands of others that were supposed to care for them, and they don’t know if you’re safe or not. This particular person I supported needed someone to be her friend above anything else, not someone else taking care of her. You can train technical skills, but you can’t train empathy or compassion. You can be friends and provide emotional support while maintaining boundaries to meet their emotional needs and still provide the physical care you’re hired for. If you’re there to make sure her hair gets washed and her teeth get brushed it can be fun for both of you, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience! It’s also important to meet them at their level and make sure you’re not overwhelming them. Give plenty of chances for breaks. In order to support someone fully you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and evaluate if you’re treating them the way you would want to be treated. Disability can happen to anyone at any time, and we’re going to get old. Chances are someone will be taking care of you. How do you want to be treated?
How have you used this competency in your work?
I use this competency in my work all the time. This is a skill that I developed from working with a previous care partner who was late in her journey with dementia. I learned to take care of the physical person that still needs their needs met, but connect with the person still inside. The services I provide vary, and I haven’t had a partner who requires a higher level of care in a while. But, I still make an effort to connect with the person themselves and make them feel special. I’ll use my salon skills with my partners who don’t speak and need their physical needs met. One person really liked certain clothes I had, like a Batman hoodie and socks and she would be SO happy when I wore it. So, I made an effort to wear it during her shifts. I ask one of my partners for her autograph each week on her service note. I learn the people I support’s favorite meals and serve it to them diner style and ask them random questions, usually asking for advice for my car or asking how something works. This usually leads into at least a 15-minute discussion which veers off into story time or Googling a hundred different things. It might take a minute but you’ll find something to connect over. But it’s okay to acknowledge that there are just some people that you will not connect with. This has helped me in my personal life as well.
How can other DSPs replicate your practices?
Other DSPs can follow my lead by finding something new to connect with their care partners about! Figure out what your connections already are, and how to use them to help provide services and promote engagement. Ask the person receiving supports questions, learn about who they are. Like I did with the partner in my story, look around and look for clues into their personality! Do they have an excess of owl things laying around? Make up? Model cars? Talk about it, even if they can’t say something back, acknowledge how cool it is and how you noticed it’s important to them. It makes your day so much better for both of you when you’re not just there to clean the floors or wash their hair. Make your day fun!
How does the NADSP E-Badge Academy benefit your agency?
The NADSP E-Badge Academy benefits my organization by using my advanced skills and education to provide top notch care to those who need it. We are called Community Connections, and I believe that I am a great example of the Connection part, and I am proud of my role in taking care of the Community. They also have the distinct honor of being able to say that they have the first certified DSP in Alaska on their staff, as well as my competency being picked for national recognition. It was a big deal to be chosen to take part in this program as an organization and I am proud that I am able to represent my organization with my accomplishments.
How does NADSP E-Badge Academy benefit the people you support?
NADSP E-Badge Academy helps the people I support because I now have the Code of Ethics to help guide my decisions. There have been situations now where I have to take a step back, pull the code up on my phone and determine if my actions are aligning within the code or if I can change things about what I’m doing. I am seeing the results of being more person centered with my clients. I felt like I was doing a good job before. But now I’m at a different level altogether with my caretaking, and more confident in my abilities. I also have a few care partners who are so proud of the fact that I’m in school! One person asks me if I’ve graduated yet when I see her every week. I explained that it means that I’m becoming certified to improve my skills and prove that I’m the best at what I do. One of the ladies I work with told me that I don’t need a certificate to prove that because I already am the best. I’ll admit, I cried! People already feel that they have the best of the best working with them, and certification only helps establish this. It also gives us something else to connect over! They feel like they’ve been with me every step of the way and they all feel like they have a hand in me succeeding. It is such a unique, amazing feeling.
What does the future hold for your involvement in the NADSP E-Badge Academy?
My future with the NADSP E-Badge Academy involves me finishing up my third certificate and doing beautiful things that change people’s lives professionally! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to even get one certificate, and now that I have two I am so determined to wrap this up and see how far I can go professionally. I will stay involved with the NADSP after my full certification. Who knows, maybe one day I will be reviewing these competencies or helping with these programs!
How has NADSP E-Badge Academy affected your professional image?
My professional image has skyrocketed during my involvement with this program. I do get recognition from this program, and I do feel like I am taken seriously because of it. Even outside the organization, I’ve mentioned it a few times and people in the field are impressed. My son’s care coordinator was shocked when I mentioned I was part of the program and blown away when I said I was the first one to get my first certificate. I’m really curious to see what this will do for me professionally and what opportunities will present themselves!
I feel more skilled. I feel like the mixture of education, self-reflection and having a code to stand by really has helped my skill level improve. I constantly talk about things that I learned in class and use that knowledge while in the field. The self-reflection helped me realize areas where I feel I am doing great, but other areas where I really can step it up. I am also giving myself more grace to take care of myself, which helps improve my care. The class about compassion fatigue really helped me recognize the symptoms of burnout in myself and that my level of care was slacking when I wasn’t addressing my own needs.
How has NADSP E-Badge Academy given you credit for competency?
The NADSP gives credit for competency by assessing competencies and in most cases how they meet the Code of Ethics. By earning these badges, we prove over and over again that our actions align with the code and that we are providing top notch care. We prove over and over again that we are the best in our
The NADSP E-Badge Academy
The NADSP E-Badge Academy offers Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and Frontline Supervisors (FLSs) the ability to earn national certification through stackable electronic badges. These badges demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and values that these professionals utilize every day, recognizing the professional development that might otherwise go unacknowledged. Through the NADSP E-Badge Academy, DSPs and FLSs are acknowledged for the experience and education that they bring to the human services field.