A group of personal support worker students at the Herzing College Ottawa campus
Personal support workers (PSWs) work one-to-one with patients of all ages and walks of life. They play a truly crucial role in their everyday health and wellbeing, helping patients remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.
PSWs work primarily with elderly patients, but may also provide healthcare services to chronically or terminally ill individuals of varying ages. They are an essential link between patients and families and supervising clinicians (such as nurses or doctors).
As Canada's healthcare system balks under the growing needs of a rapidly aging population, and more people seek to remain at home as they age, demand for PSWs has risen sharply.
This is an ideal career path for compassionate individuals in search of a stable career in healthcare that allows for considerable one-to-one time with patients and families. And as with any career decision, the first step is selecting comprehensive training from a reliable institution.
In this post, we outline the attributes of a trustworthy personal support worker program, typical course content, and the forecasted career outlook for PSWs in Ottawa.
What to Look for in a Personal Support Worker Program
Students in Ottawa can expect to find PSW training that runs from six months to one year in length. In addition to considering the reputation of the college, the experience level of instructors, class size, and schedule flexibility, students should look for the following characteristics when comparing PSW programs:
- the PSW program should be accredited by the NACC (you should find clear confirmation of this status on the website program page)
- the PSW program should include an internship (or clinical placement) of at least 10 weeks, with a minimum number of hours each student must fulfill
- the PSW clinical placement should be divided between various potential work settings (such as a community placement and a facility placement)
- the PSW program should include training to earn First Aid and CPR certificates
- the PSW program website should include the percentage of recent graduates who have successfully found PSW jobs after completing training (graduate success rate)
In order to apply, students must hold an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, or equivalent, or be a mature student. Applicants can expect to undergo some kind of academic entrance test to determine their suitability for the PSW program.
Ideally, the college will invite prospective students on campus for a personal interview, at which time the students can take a tour, meet instructors, evaluate the facilities, and ask detailed questions about the PSW program.
What to Expect from Personal Support Worker Courses
PSW programs that are accredited by the NACC follow strict standards to ensure students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed on the job. Therefore, students can expect the courses included in the program to cover a wide range of practical and theoretical competencies.
Reputable personal support worker courses will include the following concepts and topics:
- the specific role, responsibilities, and ethical duties of the personal support worker
- the principles of safe patient care (preventing injury, infection, understanding lifting techniques, proper patient positioning, etc.)
- the fundamentals of anatomy, physiology, and human body systems—and how these are impacted by common conditions and age-related changes
- practical approaches to assisting clients with everyday activities (bathing techniques, grooming, skin care, oral care, etc.)
- recognizing and responding to family violence and abuse
- recognizing and dealing with mental health issues and brain injuries
- approaches to assisting a dying person (reducing pain and discomfort, supporting family members, providing care at the time of death, and more)
Students should find descriptions of fundamental course concepts similar to these on the websites of colleges that deliver PSW training. Other courses, such a career planning and communication skills may also be included in the program.
Career Options & Job Outlook for PSWs in Ottawa
After graduating from PSW training, students are prepared to start work immediately in home-care settings, long-term care facilities, and hospitals.
According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the job outlook for personal support workers in Ontario is good—this profession has earned a 3/3 star rating for employability, which is expected to hold steady for the next several years.
Job growth is forecasted to remain strong in the Ottawa region specifically, which has also earned the 3/3 employability rating for PSWs. What is driving growth in this field? Factors include our aging population, large numbers of current workers getting ready to retire, and not enough qualified personal support workers to fill vacant positions.
Are you interested in learning more about what PSWs do, or still looking for a reputable personal support program in Ottawa?
Consider Herzing College's NACC-accredited Personal Support Worker program. Training is delivered at the Ottawa campus, takes just 34 weeks to compete, and includes an 11-week internship in both community and facility placements.
Visit the program page for a complete list of PSW courses, career information, and to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We'll help you get started!