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The Caring Support Blog

Can a Nursing Student Work as a PSW?

May 12, 2024

In health care, regulations exist so that individuals can specialize in their fields of expertise. Be it in long term care or community care, workers must be able to provide the right kind of health services as part of the care team in order to fulfill their client care plans. One of the most common job types in healthcare is those that have to do with nursing—whether they finished a short nursing program or came from a prestigious nursing school. However, some may wonder if nursing students can work as personal support workers (PSWs) as well, considering that the work they both do is somewhat similar.

In this article, we will explain the prospect of nursing students working as PSWs. Specifically, if they have enough credentials to work as a personal support worker, if they have enough skilled care talents, and if they're determined enough to embrace the type of opportunity to support the elderly and disabled with good hospice care—assisting them with their activities of daily living, personal care, and hygiene, have a different work location that's possibly far from their nursing school, and being an overall integral part of the home of many hospitals seeking quality geriatric care or intensive care.

Can Nursing Students Work as a PSW While Studying?

Yes, it's possible for nursing students to find a PSW job, as many healthcare facilities are actively recruiting and hiring them, both on a full-time and part-time basis. While hospitals are generally stricter in training and personal support worker certificates earned from the completion of a PSW program, retirement homes and other types of long-term care facilities are generally more welcoming of nursing students wanting to work as care assistants.

Long-term care facilities would hire nursing students despite having no PSW certification, provided that they completed the first year (for students of practical nurse programs) or second year (for students of BScN working toward becoming registered nurses) of their education and are still enrolled in their respective programs.

Nursing students who work as PSWs are expected to have a valid driver's license, driving from patient to patient to help them with personal care and activities of daily living. They may also be tasked with performing housekeeping duties for these patients. Through it all, nursing students may also expect nursing supervision of the team leader, who will be readily available for them, should they need assistance in performing their duties.

Pros of Working as a PSW While in Nursing School

Nursing students working as PSWs may expect to earn as much as $20 per hour, which may vary depending on the facility they'll be working in. The company may also provide additional incentives, such as stipends, shift premiums, and health benefits. This will surely help nursing students finance their studies, especially since tuition and textbook costs are often costly in nursing school.

Moreover, although the duties performed by a PSW are a little different from what's taught in the school of nursing and what they'll perform when they're already full-fledged nurses, working as a PSW while still in nursing school may still be proven a valuable experience that can give them insights on how to handle patients more effectively.

Immersing and exposing themselves in the field as part of a bigger community care team helps a lot in honing nursing students as healthcare professionals in the future, teaching them important lessons beyond what the nursing curriculum may provide.

Being a PSW can benefit nursing students by giving them the opportunity to practice their caregiving skills, learn how to read the emotions of patients, and understand the common symptoms of certain illnesses as senior helpers. PSWs can also be taught to troubleshoot certain healthcare-related problems better, think faster than a non-trained individual, and overall perform better than they could had they not been trained.

So, as they typically work in a community setting, working-students-turned-PSWs are developing more empathy and respect toward patients and their families, especially if they're tasked to care for the elderly or disabled people.

On top of that, some have suggested that getting a PSW position while working towards becoming a nurse helps students build confidence, considering the challenges they will have to face in long-term care facilities or retirement homes, such as staffing shortages and heavy workloads. They will definitely enter their nursing careers, certain about their skills and their ability to help people overcome their physical and mental limitations.

Other reasons why working as a PSW can benefit a nurse include the fact that it gives them a deeper understanding of how emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding that role can be and how hard it is for these caregivers to handle it all. This is important because nurses often act as supervisors for PSWs in certain healthcare settings, and in hospitals, they may rely on PSWs to provide care to a larger number of patients at once.

Nursing student taking care of her elderly patient as part of her duties as a part-time PSW.

Cons of Working as a PSW While in Nursing School

While nursing students gain valuable hands-on experience by working as personal support workers (PSWs), there are several notable drawbacks to consider.

First and foremost, the responsibilities and demands of a PSW role can be physically and emotionally taxing, potentially leading to burnout or fatigue for individuals juggling both their studies and employment. Additionally, balancing work with academic commitments may strain time management skills and hinder academic performance.

Furthermore, working as a PSW, in some cases, is inadvertently blurring professional boundaries, as nursing students must navigate dual roles in caregiving settings, which could potentially compromise patient care or professional standards.

Lastly, the potentially arising conflict of interest may happen if a student's employment as a PSW impacts their ability to fully commit to their education or prioritize patient safety above all else.

A list summarizing the pros and cons of working as a PSW while in nursing school.

Requirements for a Nursing Student Who Wants to Work Part-Time as a PSW

The requirements for nursing students to work as PSWs (Personal Support Workers) in healthcare facilities may vary depending on the specific regulations and guidelines of the healthcare institution and the region. However, some common requirements may include:

Enrollment in a Nursing Program

Nursing students interested in working as PSWs may need to be enrolled in a nursing program at an accredited educational institution. This ensures that they are receiving appropriate theoretical and clinical training in nursing care.

Completion of Basic Nursing Skills

Nursing students may be required to complete a certain level of basic nursing skills training as part of their nursing program. These skills may include patient hygiene, mobility assistance, vital signs monitoring, and other fundamental aspects of patient care. Relevant soft skills, such as good communication skills and exceptional personal care and customer service, may also be necessary to succeed in the role.

Compliance with Regulatory Standards

Nursing students working as PSWs may need to comply with the regulatory standards or corporate policies set by the healthcare facility and the relevant governing bodies.

This may include obtaining necessary certifications or clearances required for employment in a healthcare setting, such as valid standard first aid and level C CPR, vulnerable sector clearance, and updated immunization records.

Healthcare facilities may also require applicants to present their current driver’s license and proof of vehicle insurance. This is because PSWs may need mobility in transferring from patient to patient or in bringing patients to the nearest facility that provides emergency care.

Supervision and Training

Nursing students working as PSWs are likely to be supervised and guided by registered nurses or other healthcare professionals. They may also receive specific training related to their role within the healthcare facility.

Understanding Their Scope of Practice

It's important for nursing students working as PSWs to understand and adhere to the scope of practice for PSWs in their jurisdiction. This includes understanding their responsibilities, limitations, and the appropriate protocols for delivering care as a PSW.

Is Clinical Externship the Same as a Nursing Student Working as a PSW?

A clinical externship for nursing students in Canada is an immersive learning experience that allows students to gain hands-on clinical skills and knowledge in a real healthcare setting. It provides an opportunity for students to apply their theoretical learning in a practical environment under the supervision of experienced healthcare professionals.

Clinical externs can earn as much as $10.10 per hour, and their responsibilities may be similar to PSWs and HCAs, which include activities of daily living like assisting patients in toileting and feeding.

Since they're unregulated healthcare providers currently enrolled in relevant programs like nursing, they work under the direct supervision of RNs or RPNs, to whom they report the plan of care that they evaluated and documented. Clinical externs are expected to maintain good communication with their supervisors, especially in times of changes in patient condition, so these supervisors can come up with the best patient care.

Sometimes, especially when the healthcare facility they're employed in is short-staffed, clinical externs may take on full responsibilities of PSWs, although certain restrictions are still in place, such as touching IV pumps and giving certain medications.

Explore PSW jobs for nursing students at Caring Support.

Caring Support: Helping Students Land a PSW Job While Still in Nursing School

Across Canadian provinces and territories like Ontario and Nova Scotia, you can find the job of your dreams with Caring Support. As healthcare professionals, utilizing a healthcare employment platform like Caring Support offers numerous advantages. We provide a centralized hub for job seekers to access various job opportunities in the healthcare industry, making the job search process more efficient and streamlined. By creating a profile, you can showcase your skills, experience, and qualifications to potential employers and increase your visibility in the competitive healthcare job market.

We also offer resources such as resume writing assistance, career coaching services, and networking opportunities to help you advance your career. This comprehensive support can be invaluable in navigating the complex and ever-evolving field of healthcare while connecting you with reputable employers who are actively seeking qualified candidates like yourself. Using Caring Support can significantly enhance your job search experience and open doors to new professional opportunities in the industry.

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About The Author
Kate Piamonte
Content Writer

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