How to Become a PSW

Becoming a personal support worker (PSW) can be a life-changing decision for those who follow this path, as they are essentially choosing to make a positive impact in the lives of people who, at one time or another, need a helping hand to get by. At Caring Support, we want to help you decide if this is the career for you, whether you are looking for a new occupation or you are finishing high school this year and are currently weighing your options. Here is all the information you need about how to become a PSW, plus the advantages and challenges of becoming one.

PSW Training and Diplomas

To become a PSW, candidates typically must complete a training program and obtain a certificate or diploma depending on the institution, which can range from private, public, or community college, to district school boards. In Ontario, all institutions offering PSW programs have to be accredited by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU).

However, according to, this was not always the case. Prior to 2015, Ontario didn’t have a standard for Personal Support Worker programs and, as a result, there was little consistency between the existing PSW training programs and the actual execution of the profession in the field. To alleviate the situation, the MTCU worked along with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Education of Ontario to develop a common vocational standard.

To qualify for a PSW program, candidates usually must have completed any Grade 12 English, Biology or Human Development (ENG4C or equivalent), but some institutions just require a Grade 11 Biology (C) or (U), or Grade 11 Health Care (C).

PSW training lasts anywhere from 8 months to 1 year, in the case of Ontario college certificate programs. In general, these programs include classes on career management, medical emergencies, interpersonal skills, safety & mobility, abuse, household management, meal preparation, personal hygiene, assisting with medications, and much more.

Ontario Accelerated PSW Program

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for PSWs in the country, which is why the province of Ontario recently announced an accelerated PSW program and additional funding to “ensure Ontario has more PSWs to provide the best care for seniors and residents in long-term care homes, while connecting people with meaningful work”, according to a press release published by the local government.

As part of the accelerated program, thousands of students will be able to complete their training in 6 months instead of 8 and free of tuition. “After three months of coursework, and experiential learning in a clinical setting, students will complete the final three months in paid onsite training in a long-term care home or in a home and community care environment. Graduates will be ready to work in long-term care and other health care settings by the fall of 2021”, as indicated in another press release published by the government of Ontario.

Why Become a PSW?

Now that you have a clear idea about how to become a PSW, let’s take a look at the advantages of choosing this particular caregiving career.

PSWs are in high demand

In Canada, and especially in Ontario, PSW programs are among the most sought-after because of the country's aging population and the fact that many families are constantly looking for home care for their elders or for their members with some kind of disabilities. For future PSWs, this means they will rarely have a hard time finding jobs because the high demand for home care and long-term care makes this a stable career choice.

PSWs can work in multiple settings

Personal support workers have multiple alternatives in terms of work settings, from the most traditional nursing homes or home care agencies to actual hospitals, recovery centers, and long-term care centers. They even have the freedom of working independently, if they so choose.

It only requires brief training

Unlike a traditional college degree, which requires a few years, the PSW training only takes months, making it perfect for those who want to start a career right away.

It's an ideal career path for extroverts

Being a PSW is more than a job because it allows these caregivers to make real connections with their clients and to help them in their journey to health by socializing with them and providing them with invaluable companionship, in addition to their other support tasks. This aspect of the job makes it ideal for extroverts, who excel in careers that require outstanding social skills.

They get to give back to the community

Very few careers give you the opportunity to serve the community while you move forward with your own professional growth. Personal support workers get to do this by providing a caregiving service that helps people in their communities regain some of the independence they lost because of age, illness, or disability. This is why many have called PSWs the backbone of the healthcare system, and it is probably the most rewarding side of the career.  

Challenges of Becoming a PSW

Every career path comes with pros and cons, and it is important to know what they are before beginning any training or education in the subject. Considering this, here are the main challenges that personal support workers usually face, as well as some solutions to make the best of these situations.

Some clients can be difficult to deal with

Personal support workers provide care for clients that are, for the most part, in a very vulnerable state due to their lack of independent mobility, pain, loneliness, and even depression. These factors also make them prone to mood swings and to develop behavior patterns that may be considered difficult to deal with.

Solution: To solve these types of issues and be able to care for their patients in the best possible way, PSWs need to rely on their social skills and their sense of empathy, regardless of their client's emotional state. A positive attitude and knowledge of human emotions are also great tools to make the most of an uncomfortable situation.

Unpredictable schedules

Personal support workers who provide their service through home care agencies are known to work unpredictable hours that vary from one week to the next and that often include evenings, weekends, and even holidays. This disadvantage is a consequence of the nature of the job, with little room to change.

The only solution to this matter, for PSWs that can’t afford to work with unpredictable schedules, is to choose work settings like nursing homes or long-term care centers that operate with pre-established shifts. However, caregivers should consider the massive experience and knowledge that working in a home setting can give them, which is why they might want to consider doing it, at least for a while.

Losing clients can be hard emotionally

One of the worst moments for any caregiver is experiencing the loss of a patient, especially if they had time to create a bond with them by spending lots of quality time together. A loss like this can feel surprisingly painful, but it is understandable if we consider that caring for someone is one of the purest acts of love.

To deal with losses like these, PSWs need to focus on the positive aspects of it, like a sense of accomplishment for having contributed to this person’s quality of life in their last moments and for having provided them with companionship to alleviate their possible loneliness. These thoughts can help PSWs heal just in time to take on another client and continuing to provide a more empathic, careful, and loving service.

If you have experienced other pros or cons related to working as a PSW, let us know in the comment section below. We would like to hear from you!

Read More:

How To Get A Full-Time PSW Job

PSW Jobs For International Nurses

What Are The Duties Of PSWs In Hospitals?

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