A Mixed Methods Study Examining the Factors Associated with Retention in Direct Support Professionals

Teri Krakovich, Purdue University


The current study investigated the organizational and individual factors that promote retention for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who work with individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD) in residential or community-based settings across a Midwestern state. Twenty-seven DSPs completed qualitative and quantitative measures by responding to open-ended interview questions and supplying background information and ratings indicating their desires to stay or leave their current organizations and reasons for doing so. Content analysis was used to interpret the qualitative data and descriptive statistics, t-tests and Chi-square analyses were used to examine the quantitative data. Factors were conceptualized under three categories: (1) Intrinsic Factors, (2) Extrinsic Factors, and 3) Individual Factors. This organizational framework for DSPs is similar to retention models for other direct care workers (e.g., Ellenbecker, 2004; Li, 2007; Warburton et al., 2014). Some factors DSPs endorsed were similar to direct care workers generally, e.g., personality traits such as being loving or empathetic towards clients, having strong communication with coworkers and supervisors, and valuing the flexibility and benefits they receive on the job, whereas other factors appeared to be relatively unique to staff working with adults with ID/DD, e.g., seeing progress and change in their clients and feeling love and appreciation from clients. When the reasons DSPs stay (e.g., relationships with clients, flexibility in their schedules) and leave their jobs (e.g., financial constraints, viewing the job as temporary) were compared, they appeared to differ, but more research is warranted. Further research is also needed to examine whether the factors promoting retention for DSPs may differ based on age and on the settings in which DSPs work. Suggestions for ways to improve recruitment, retention, and training efforts for DSPs are highlighted, and the implications of the current findings are discussed.




McGrew, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

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