Enrolled in PSW training and nearing the end of your diploma? It's likely you're looking ahead to your employment options after graduation, and for support systems to help get your career rolling.
If you live in Ontario, you've probably heard of the Ontario Personal Support Worker Association—OPSWA. It's an organization new grads and experienced PSWs can join to get professional support, and push for greater recognition for PSWs across the province.
But what exactly does OPSWA do, how might you benefit from joining the network, and what does it take to get a membership?
In this post, we introduce students to an overview of OPSWA, and some key facts you should know about joining the association.
What is OPSWA's Role in the Health Care Community?
OPSWA is the first ever professional association for PSWs in Canada, and according to its website, is committed to pursuing a number of important objectives for both PSWs and patients in Ontario. These include:
- helping PSWs present a "united front" to government agencies and the public, and advocate for positive changes within the profession (this is key, because Personal Support Worker is not a regulated profession, which makes it challenging for PSWs to advocate for improved working conditions and a higher "status" within the health care industry)
- providing PSWs with opportunities for professional development, ensuring members stay abreast of new advancements and techniques in their field
- pushing for better patient care conditions and patient rights
- helping PSWs connect with a network of colleagues across the province for career support
OPSWA was founded by a small group of PSWs back in 2010. It is still run by PSWs, and now has members who sit on committees with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. OPSWA vows to be a strong voice for PSWs in government, across the province.
What Benefits Does OPSWA Offer Members?
OPSWA has some very lofty goals for improving patient care and supporting growth within the PSW profession. But how does the average member benefit from joining the association? What practical supports can you expect to receive after joining OPSWA?
The association outlines the following as top benefits of membership:
- a free yearly police check
- group medical benefits
- group car and home insurance
- access to training materials and updates on new government regulations that may affect your practice
- unrestricted access to OPSWA staff whenever questions arise or support is needed
- discounts at various stores
- a professionally branded OPSWA photo ID card
- access to a network of local PSWs
- help preparing resumes and cover letters
- one million dollar liability insurance attached to every membership
Overall, OPSWA promises that joining the association gives members an added layer of credibility and employability. For example, because OPSWA insists all members pass regular criminal background checks and possess valid training credentials, employers have faith that OPSWA job applicants can be trusted to perform well.
Some employers even give preferential hiring to OPSWA members. For example, "Right at Home Canada", a home health care provider based in London, Ontario says on their website that OPSWA applicants are considered first for new positions—take a look at their hiring policy right here.
How do You Become a Member of OPSWA after PSW Training?
So, if you're about to graduate and would like to apply for OPSWA membership, what steps will you have to take to join the association?
OPSWA's criteria for membership and process for registration includes:
- completion of a recognized PSW diploma program
- passing a full background check through OPSWA's partner, Backcheck©
- submitting an online application form, which includes basic identity and contact information, plus information on your current employer
- submitting a certificate or diploma, and resume
- paying an application fee of $120
Haven't graduated yet, and want to become an OPSWA member?
The association has a membership option for students who are still in the process of completing their PSW training. As long as you are still in school, the membership is completely free. What comes with the student OPSWA membership? Benefits include:
- access to training and professional support materials
- discounted tickets to OPSWA events and professional development workshops
- access to OPSWA corporate members (employers) who are seeking PSWs
- the support of the OPSWA community during the transition from student to professional PSW
Students can fill out an application for free membership right here.
What Rules Must OPSWA Members Follow?
When PSWs become members of OPSWA, they agree to follow the association's Code of Ethics. This code outlines four broad principles every members must uphold. These principles include standards for skill and competence, integrity and respect for the law, respecting the dignity of patients, and a commitment to ongoing professional development.
You will find a detailed break-down of each principle here, on the OPSWA website.
If an OPSWA member is reported for professional misconduct (breach of the Code of Ethics), that member is investigated by the association through an established "complaints and discipline" process. That process is described in detail right here, along with possible outcomes and consequences for OPSWA members.
Interested in learning more about career options and support systems for PSWs? Just starting out and looking for reliable, top-rated PSW colleges?
Take a look at Herzing College's Personal Support Worker Training, delivered at our Ottawa campus. Visit the program page for a complete list of courses, admission information, or to chat live with a friendly advisor. We're here to help!