Fr. Amal was awarded his PhD and is now Reverend Doctor Amal. On Wednesday, November 8th, Fr. Amalorpavalanathan, SdC, presented his dissertation to the faculty panel for approval of his doctoral degree from Madonna University in Livonia. This is an excerpt from his dissertation.

Dedication and Joy in Serving Individuals with Disabilities

The service of direct care workers (DCWs) plays a vital role in the continuum of care for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). While the work is emotionally exhausting, this study examines the spirituality and commitment of DCWs and how their work rewards them intrinsically. To provide quality services for individuals with IDD that respect their dignity, individuality, and ability requires well-trained, compassionate, committed individuals eager to offer quality care. The services that DCWs provide are complex but also rewarding. Research by the Catholic Health Association of the United States emphasized, “Often those who choose this work feel a special ‘calling,’ their commitment to caring for others come from deeply held values.” One of the most significant challenges the field of human services faces is finding and keeping DCWs. Several studies identified high staff turnover, which inevitably and negatively affects the quality of care provided.

Research was conducted in 2023 to illuminate and examine the lived experience of DCWs working with individuals with IDD in order to understand and support their commitment, which would improve the retention and quality of care for clients with IDD. Twenty participants involved in the study were employed within various private and public agencies providing services to individuals with IDD. They include private residential and group homes, detention centers, special education programs, and Community Mental Health programs (CMH). Among the 20 participants in the study were twelve females and eight males. To help the participants recall and respond to the interview, they were interviewed with ten questions regarding work-life experience.

Main Themes Defining Direct Care Workers

The findings from the interviews were categorized into overarching themes:
1. Direct Care Workers stated that their job requires love and dedication
2. Fulfilling clients’ needs defines success in their work
3. Direct Care Workers attribute their success to meaningful relationships with their clients
4. Seeing the clients grow motivates DCWs positively
5. DCWs recognize the virtue of love, patience, and dedication in their service
6. DCWs take pride in their job
7. DCWs feel a sense of accomplishment
8. DCWs express a sense of purpose and willingness to continue
9. DCWs acknowledge the positive impact of their job on their personal life
10. DCWs express the need for fair compensation
11. DCWs insist on direct involvement of the management in direct care
12. DCWs seek to foster communication and recognition.

In Conclusion …

DCWs find their job meaningful when they are making a difference in the lives of others, advocating for vulnerable individuals, building meaningful relationships with clients, using their spiritual values to impact their personal-life, family-life, and work-life positively, and affecting a better perspective of life. DCWs quoted The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” This is the fundamental spiritual insight that motivates them in dedication and spirituality. DCWs must demonstrate the qualities of altruism and friendliness that come from embracing their work as more than just a job. Many see their work as “a calling” or “a mission.”

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