What do Q’s really do?

by Ann Wilson

Each of Misericordia’s one thousand employees plays a critical role in helping the residents live healthy, fulfilling lives. To name a few: cooks, housekeepers, the bakery staff, coffee packagers, nurses. But the role of the Q (short for Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional, or QIDP) is akin to the conductor of an orchestra. She/he coordinates all of the behind-the-scenes activities to oversee the care of the residents in their charge.

I interviewed two Q’s for this article. Jessica Disbrow is a Q in Marion Center, apartment 205, where she manages nine ladies. Jessica happens to be my daughter’s Q. Jae Shin is the Q at Baumgarten House, a group home in Chicago, where five young men live.

Q: How did you find out about Misericordia?

Jessica: My best friend’s family has been volunteering/working at Misericordia for three decades. They introduced me to Misericordia, and I was instantly connected to the mission as I have a cousin who has developmental disabilities in Texas.

Jae: During my time at Loyola University, I joined an organization called "Best Buddies". I was paired with a resident from​ Misericordia and loved my experience, so much so that I added Special Education to my degree and even interned for a summer at Mis while living at Driskill (the volunteer community home). I was fortunate enough to be familiar with Misericordia when I graduated and went through a "quarter-life" crisis - I wasn't sure if I wanted to teach in a classroom setting so I sought other opportunities and landed a job at Misericordia. I am so thankful that I did and for my last 5 years here!

Q: How has the pandemic changed your job?

Jessica: I have had more responsibility in regards to the residents’ medical and personal needs as guardians were not allowed to take their kids/siblings out on appointments or come on campus for quite a while. There was also added duties to the job when it came to PPE and tracking contact between staff and residents throughout a day.

Jae: During the "lockdown,” I spent much more time with the residents since they were working from home (versus going to campus or community jobs). I also spent a lot of time supporting Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) by researching day programming resources, coming up with outing ideas and looking up Zoom events for the residents to partake in. Nowadays, the CILAs are back to working on campus so my day to day is back to "normal" apart from having to pick up more DSP shifts due to the staffing levels.

However, the biggest change for me has been feeling so much closer to the staff I work with through getting through a pandemic together. We had to put on a brave face for the residents even when we were stressed and confused about the pandemic. So many of us chose to spend our birthdays and holidays at work this year and the last because this was the place we could be with the most people (masked and adhering to safety protocols, of course). It brought us closer together and really deepened our friendships.

Q: How much training did the Q job require?

Jessica: Every Q must go through the general DSP training that Misericordia offers and complete on-the-job training in the apartment/house that they are going to be working with. It is important that a Q has good knowledge of how a shift works and the care and needs of their residents. After that I did a couple of weeks of training with Jessica Potas from staff development and I was lucky enough to get some days with the outgoing Q for apartment 205. 

Jae: To be completely honest, I can't remember well. I trained while I was still in another position so my training may not have been “conventional.” I think in total it had to be at least a week's worth of trainings spread out into a month or so. And then, once I was on the job, I had additional training times with CILA Q's who showed me department-specific responsibilities and protocols. 

Note: All Qs must complete QIDP training, which places them on a registry, and complete CEUs.

Q: How much time do you spend with the residents? With the House Supervisors?

Jessica: I spend as much time as I can with the residents. I have found face-to-face contact with the ladies is the best way for me to do my job because I know, first hand, what is going on with them. The 205 staff are great about keeping me updated on what their needs are, but seeing and hearing things first-hand makes me a better Q. My new year’s resolution is to not procrastinate on paperwork so that I can pull my residents for one-on-one time with me each day.

I check in every morning or change-of-shift with the supervisors to make sure we are on the same page and to let them know I am available to help what needs done that day. I am a relief supervisor, so I am fully aware the stresses of the shift and only want to be of service!

Jae: I spend about half an hour a day on my "office days" checking in and chatting with residents. Then I have my DSP coverage shifts at least once a week where I'm the only staff at the house and get to spend a lot of time with the residents! Lately, I've spent some more time than usual with things like date nights, putting up holiday decorations, taking them shopping for personal needs, switching seasonal clothes out…the latter two are examples of things that families would usually do with the residents, but we've started doing, because of the pandemic restrictions.

We don't have house supervisors but an AM and PM supervisor for the whole department. I don't spend much time with them outside of our weekly management team meetings but stay in touch with them often to let them know what's going on in the house.

Q: How much interaction do you have with the families/guardians?

Jessica: Lots. I am very proud of my relationship with the families/guardians and try to build a strong foundation of communication. Especially during the pandemic, it was imperative to keep communication between myself and families, as they did not have any other way to communicate with their child/sibling, and families needed to be kept up to date as medical appointments came up.

Jae: I see families in person at start and end of Family Visits. It's a great time to catch up and talk. Otherwise, I'm regularly in contact with families via email and text regarding events, medical appointments, concerns, paperwork, etc.

Q: Who is your administrator, and how frequently do you meet/interact with her/him?

Jessica: Chris Hegg-Krackenberger is my administrator and she has an open-door policy that I often take her up on. We see each other often while working on the same strategic teams on campus.

Jae:  Joe Ferrara is my administrator. He is usually at our weekly management meetings. I see my director, Katie Peterson, more frequently. I have 1:1 monthly meeting with her and she always tries to make it to my house's monthly house dinners. She's at every weekly management meeting and in regular contact with everyone via Teams (like a group message on the computer) and email. She's the best!

Q: What role do you have in scheduling day programming? 

Jessica: Before the pandemic, I did not do much for the day programming other than meeting with the instructors and going over ideas for my residents as to goals they could work on at Conway. During the pandemic, I have had to come with some different schedules that would help to keep our residents safe AND active. The Marian Center team worked together to devise schedules that would engage our residents, while also following CDC guidelines within the building.

Jae: My main role is advocating for the residents' interests and needs. The residents usually have primary instructors who are in charge of their schedules and overseeing how they are doing at work but with so many instructors leaving, CILA homes got assigned temporary primary instructors. Our primary instructor is great, but doesn't know the men very well, so I feel that it is my responsibility to make sure the guys' schedules reflect their interests and what's meaningful to them.

Q: When a potentially new resident spends the night in the apartment/house, how involved are you?

Jessica: Very involved. Social Services will give me a binder of information on the resident before-hand and it is my job to make the paperwork necessary for my staff to work with the resident. I must communicate the special needs of the new resident and help to make them feel as comfortable as possible in this new setting. It is important to be hands on so that the DSPs working with the new resident also feel supported as they get to know this new person.

Jae: Very! In the CILAs, potential residents have day visits before having an overnight visit. I adjust my schedule in order to work as the DSP for at least the first few visits so that I can get as much face time as possible with the individual. Observing in one CILA doesn't always mean they'll be placed there, so I feel it's important for me to have direct experience with the individual and be able to speak to what kind of interests and needs they have, and to give input into where they might eventually fit best. I'm also the person on phone calls with the individual and families before visits so if anyone is nervous (spoiler: it's usually the parents, ha ha) it helps to see a familiar face rather than having to drop off their child in a foreign home with people they've never met/seen.

Q: What if you feel that a resident needs a specific therapy or service? What’s the protocol that needs to be followed?

Jessica: If I feel that one of my residents needs a specific therapy or service that we offer on campus, I will email or call that person and start a conversation on what I or my staff is seeing. Usually that person would then come and observe, and we would continue talking until we found a solution. If I am not sure what my resident needs, or we do not specifically offer it on campus I will ask for help from my director, Val, or I will ask for a IDT (interdisciplinary team) meeting to get the help I need.

Jae: Each area is assigned a staff from the therapy department, so I email them to ask for an evaluation describing the concern.

Q: I know that you are in charge of the DSP’s. Do you do their scheduling?

Jessica: The primary house supervisor for their shift does their scheduling. I am more in charge of making sure they are aware and putting into action the plans for the residents. For example, if I see that someone is serving a resident dime-sized food and not mechanically altered, as it says in their meal-time plan, I would step in and give coaching on how to properly serve the resident.

Jae: No. In the CILA’s, the supervisors do the scheduling one month in advance. I lay out the schedule for the specific day. In Baumgartner, there are 5 men on the young side, so only one DSP is required. DSP’s cook dinner, plan meals and grocery shop. They also do lots of rides — picking up residents from work/activities. Sometimes they have date nights with girlfriends and/or boyfriends, so someone needs to drop off/pick up.

Q: Which shifts tend to be the most challenging?

Jessica: As a Q we don’t work a specific shift, we work when it fits best to take residents to appointments or make meetings. As a supervisor, I find that each shift has its own peaks and valleys. The AM shift is always a busy one due to the activities and appointments that go on during the day. Our residents are living very active and full lives that we are trying to keep up with!

Jae: Weeknight shifts. There are chores and activities from the day that need to be completed, while simultaneously preparing for the next day’s activities. Sometimes there are mid-week sporting events that want to be watched, so tackling the to-do list and being aware of tomorrow’s activities takes on even more importance

Q: Has technology hurt or helped your job?

Jessica: Helped. Introducing iPads and email addresses has helped my staff communicate their needs to me in a more timely manner and I look forward to our new charting program!

Jae: It has helped a lot. At beginning of 2021, all the guys got iPads or smart phones. All schedules are accessed through their online calendar. I have the luxury of showing them, on the calendar, when an important event, such as a birthday or home visit, is scheduled.

Q: Do you meet with the other Q’s from across campus? 

Jessica: Unfortunately, due to COVID, this has been limited, but we occasionally work with other Q’s during SITs (strategic implementation teams) or modules for training.

Jae: Yes. One meeting is coming up in January. These meetings happened regularly before the pandemic, but just starting up again. I was on a committee to meet with Q’s from other areas to update forms that the Q’s have to fill out. Now I still work with Q’s from other areas in a “learning how to train a manager.” class. Now, the same course is offered to all employees.

Q: How do you prepare for a resident’s staffing, which happens yearly?

Jessica: I am actually preparing for two right now, and staff development created a very handy checklist that I go through that helps me keep track of which departments and reports I still need. I then create a power point presentation full of medical and goal information and, most importantly, photos of the residents’ active life!

Jae: Lots and lots of paperwork. Dates sent at beginning of month. Lots of annual stuff is updated at that time. The residents love the presentation itself. I have tried to make them very specific to the resident. I have the resident help create the presentation. This part is very enjoyable for both them and me.

Thanks to Jessica and Jae for taking the time to answer my questions. I knew the Q position was important, but I nowI have a new respect and admiration for the wide variety of skills Jessica and Jae possess, and how each makes their job look easy. We are grateful to have them as part of the Misericordia community.

Qs News story