A Day in the Life of a DSP – Terrace McDuffie of New Options

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In honor of Direct Service Professionals Week, we went to the source to find out what it’s really like to be a DSP.


Terrace “Terry” McDuffie loves his job. In fact, the beloved Direct Service Professional (DSP) doesn’t think of it as work. McDuffie explained, “Honestly, I don’t really do this as a job. A lot of times I’m doing things with the residents that’s fun—whether it’s shopping with them or playing games or teaching them how to cook.” He added, “I enjoy working with people and seeing their smiles every day.”

McDuffie has been a DSP with various RHD programs since 2002. Every weekday morning, he travels from his West Oak Lane neighborhood in Philadelphia to RHD’s New Options program. He serves as the Lead Life Support Specialist at the Powell Street location in Montgomery County. The New Options Powell Street site is a licensed personal care home that promotes clients’ independence by providing a supportive community environment for elderly individuals who have mental health challenges and who had been institutionalized. There, McDuffie works directly with participants to assist them in realizing their full potential and helping them become integrated and engaged in their community.

Describing a typical day at work, McDuffie said, “I start around 7 a.m., and the first thing I do in the mornings is greet the residents. Then I dispense their meds. After I talk with them for a little while, I meet with the administrator and we share a rundown about the expectations for the day. I make lunch with the residents and after that we might play bingo. I buy them gifts and give them surprises if they win. They look forward to that a lot. They also love singing—they love to sing so I sing with them. When it’s not too hot, we sit out back in the yard. In the afternoons, we might watch movies.”

McDuffie also helps participants with life skills. He explained, “On Wednesdays, we ask the residents to provide input on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We make menus and do some shopping. I also keep up with the residents’ finances; I let them know exactly how much they have in their account. I take them to medical appointments as well.”

While McDuffie’s day is supposed to end at 3 p.m., he usually stays later. He said, “A lot of times I stick around. My day ends whenever I walk out the door.  I love it!”

McDuffie’s dedication and enthusiasm doesn’t go unnoticed. New Options Program Director Julie Phillips said, “Terry is the first to go above and beyond for his residents and peers. Sometimes he takes extra shifts to cover for peers on vacations. Sometimes he special orders a birthday cake from a favorite store for a resident who wouldn’t otherwise be celebrated.  Sometimes he is the staff member asked to have difficult conversations with a resident who doesn’t trust many people. Terry doesn’t just show up…he goes the extra mile constantly.”

The support McDuffie has found from RHD and the New Options team has fueled his enduring career as a DSP. McDuffie said, “I’ve never worked with a group of people who are so supportive and are never too busy for the staff or the residents.”

For those considering a job as a DSP, McDuffie shared, “Working with residents to help them become more independent is an experience everyone should have. It’s enriching to me to know that I’m out there enriching another person’s life.”

He added, “I hope and pray I’ll do this for a while longer. I love it and plan to do this until I can’t work anymore.”


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