How to Transition from PSW to Nursing

Becoming a Personal Support Worker is often seen as the first step towards developing a career in healthcare. After a few years of practice, many PSWs decide to go back to school to pursue other roles like nursing, having the practical experience and medical knowledge to excel. So, can a PSW become an RN (registered nurse)? Yes, they can. How? Keep reading.

From PSW to Nursing

For PSWs, there are many benefits that come with advancing in their healthcare careers into a nursing role. The main ones, of course, are professional growth and income increase, but there’s also the benefit of having a wider range of job opportunities available once a PSW becomes an RN or an RPN, which is Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario (or Licensed Practical Nurse in the rest of Canada).

To transition from PSW to RN or RPN, many colleges in Ontario offer continuing education and bridging programs designed to make the process as smooth as possible. These PSW-RPN programs make use of students’ previous knowledge and education to support them as they acquire a new set of skills. The duration is usually two academic years (four semesters) before students can move on to a full RPN program until completion.

What makes bridging programs for future nurses so unique is that they're usually highly career-focused, with a great mix of foundational knowledge based on scientific theory plus real-life nursing practices. Many programs also include senior care courses focused on meeting the demands of the aging population.

After completing a program, graduates will be prepared to perform nursing duties as part of an inter-professional team of healthcare workers. But first, to be able to practice, graduates are required to write the National Registration Examination for admission to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), which is the institution that regulates nursing across the province. The examination was first established in the Nursing Act in 1991.

Additionally, to practice in Ontario, nursing graduates must meet other requirements including not having been convicted of a criminal offence or an offence under the Canadian Narcotic Control Act or the Food and Drugs Act.

Once declared eligible and granted admission to the CNO, Registered Practical Nurses can start their job search to find employment in multiple healthcare settings such as nursing homes, residential homes for older adults, acute and chronic care hospitals, and community healthcare settings in general.

Requirements for PSWs to Enroll in Nursing Programs

To enroll in a PSW-RN bridging program and then in a nursing program, personal support workers need to meet several requirements such as:

These requirements tend to vary depending on the academic institution.

Benefits of Becoming a Nurse After Working as a PSW

Going from PSW to RN has proven to be very beneficial for these healthcare workers since it allows them to develop certain skills that will set them apart from their peers. For instance, while working as a PSW, nurses have the opportunity to acquire time management skills because both roles are fast-paced and require them to properly manage and organize their time to be able to care for all of their patients in one shift.

Working as a PSW also helps nurses become more efficient, confident, and empathetic with their patients, much more than a nursing graduate with no previous patient care experience. These benefits are the reason why PSWs usually find success in nursing and other healthcare roles. Plus, by advancing to a medical career, they get many more opportunities to develop their potential and contribute to the community.

For current PSWs interested in pursuing a career in nursing in Ontario, this is a great moment to take the leap, considering that as the older population in the province keeps increasing, there will be more employment available for RPNs in acute care settings, community health agencies, and long-term care facilities, as well as in hospitals.

Are you a PSW planning to switch careers and become a nurse? Are you unsure if this is the right path for you? Let us know your thoughts! We’ll be happy to help you make an informed decision about going from PSW to RN.

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