Some people are interested in becoming a personal support worker (PSW), which is an important role with strong demand, especially from the healthcare sector. With eligibility requirements depending on the area you live, the personal support worker role needs regulation like other jobs -- you need familiarity with both patient care and personal care, a proactive role in health promotion, possess useful and relevant professional skills, contribute to a cohesive plan of care for your patients, and commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others.
In this article, we will discuss the things you need to know about being a PSW to help you decide if this is the career for you. Whether you are looking for a new occupation in the healthcare field (e.g., if you're currently a registered nurse or a practical nurse) or have just finished high school this year and are currently weighing your options, here is all you need to know about how to become a PSW, as well as the advantages and challenges of becoming one.
To become a PSW in Ontario, candidates typically must complete a training program and obtain a certificate or diploma, depending on the institution they choose, which can range from private, public, or community colleges to district school boards. All institutions offering PSW programs in the province have to be accredited by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU).
However, this was not always the case. Before 2015, Ontario had no regulations on Personal Support Worker programs, which led to little consistency between the existing PSW training programs and the actual execution of the profession in the field. In order to address this issue, the MTCU, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Education of Ontario teamed up to standardize and protocolize the process of becoming on PSW.
To qualify for a PSW program, candidates are now required to complete 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).
The province of Ontario 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 tuition will be free. “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.
As mentioned before, personal support workers also need regulation like any other job in healthcare. And while the ways to become a PSW has been discussed and broken down, some may wonder what's so special about this career choice. Discover the benefits of selecting this career path by reading more below.
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.
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.
PSWs take a much shorter time to complete, unlike traditional college degrees, which typically require a few years. Most PSW training periods only take months, making it perfect for those who want to start a career in caregiving and healthcare right away.
Being a PSW is more than a job because it allows these caregivers to make real connections with their clients and help them in their journey to health. By constantly 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.
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.
PSW training lasts anywhere from 8 months to 1 year in most 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.
Another option to become a PSW in Ontario is to choose one of the accelerated PSW programs available in the province. The provincial decision was made 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 have been able to complete their training in 6 months instead of 8 months or a year and enjoy free 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.
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.
Personal support workers provide care for clients that are mostly in vulnerable states due to their lack of independent mobility, pain, loneliness, and even depression brought about their current conditions. These factors also make them prone to mood swings and to develop behaviour patterns that may be considered difficult to deal with.
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.
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.
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 continue to provide a more empathic, careful, and loving service.
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