What Exactly Does a Personal Support Worker (PSW) Do?

Personal support workers (PSWs) play a crucial role in helping vulnerable people live their best lives. They usually work with seniors who need extra support with daily living tasks.

PSWs work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement residences, hospitals, and for companies that deliver support to seniors in their own homes.

Personal support workers help clients maintain their dignity, stay safe, and remain as independent as possible.

Demand for personal support workers is higher than ever in Ontario and across Canada.

The need is so great that the Ontario government is investing tens of millions of dollars to train thousands of new PSWs.

Wondering if this career path is right for you? Want to know what you'd be doing at work?

In this post, we take you through the day-to-day duties of personal support workers and explain their role in client care.

Find out what becoming a PSW is all about, and if this occupation is your true calling.

 

WHAT DO PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS ACTUALLY DO?

Personal support workers help with tasks that people can no longer do on their own because of age, illness, injury, or disability.

Their goal is to help clients live safely and comfortably.

If you pursue a PSW career, your daily responsibilities could involve:

☑️ Lifting and transferring clients who have difficulty moving around on their own

☑️ Assisting with personal tasks like bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, and brushing teeth

☑️ Reminding clients to take their medications at the appropriate times

☑️ Sweeping or vacuuming floors, tidying rooms, and washing dishes

☑️ Changing sheets and doing laundry

☑️ Planning and preparing meals according to specific dietary requirements

☑️ Shopping for groceries and picking up prescriptions

☑️ Chatting and spending time with clients (providing companionship and emotional support)

☑️ Escorting clients to appointments and social outings

☑️ Helping clients carry out prescribed exercises

☑️ Observing and reporting changes in clients' behaviour, attitude, or overall health to a supervisor or nurse

Herzing graduate Shannon McGrath is a PSW at Cite Parkway Retirement Residence. She says her role depends on the needs of each resident.

"Some clients are more independent, so I just provide assistance with laundry, bringing meals if they're sick, and helping them get downstairs.

For residents who need total care, I feed them, bathe them, do laundry, put them in lifts to transfer them, etc. I really enjoy the work."

 

WHO HIRES PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS?

Personal support workers have a wide range of possible employers, including:

☑️ Home care companies

☑️ Hospitals

☑️ Long-term care facilities

☑️ Retirement homes

☑️ Community care centres

☑️ Group homes

☑️ Hospices

Some PSWs choose to specialize in caring for clients with specific health care conditions and needs.

Herzing College PSW graduate, Pauline, is focusing on clients with dementia who need full support.

"During my internship, I had the chance to work in a locked ward, caring for people in the last stage of dementia. We assisted with meals, feeding, toileting, dressing, mobility, and also provided companionship and emotional support. I plan to continue supporting clients with dementia, and I'm also very interested in end-of-life care."

 

WHAT is a typical day for a PSW?

The specific job duties will be a bit different depending on where you work and what your clients need.

For example, a PSW who goes to people's homes could do anything from washing clothes and preparing meals to shopping for groceries and walking the dog.

But PSWs who work in a long-term care facility likely won't drive a client anywhere or carry out many housekeeping tasks.

Their standard routine often goes something like this:

☑️ Start around 7 a.m. by taking residents to the bathroom and helping with activities like using the toilet, shaving, washing, and brushing their hair.

☑️ Make the beds and ensure medications are ready.

☑️ Escort residents to breakfast. You might just need to help butter their toast or add milk to their tea. Or you might need to actually feed your client.

☑️ After breakfast, it's usually time for showers.

☑️ Then you might help residents carry out doctor-directed exercises or participate in activities like trivia, bingo, crafts, or walks.

☑️ It's back to the dining room for lunch, after which you help many residents get ready for a nap.

☑️ Before you leave for the day, you'll write up a report that documents the care each client received, how much they ate and drank, and any abnormal behaviours you observed.

 

WHY IS A PSW'S WORK SO IMPORTANT?

Personal support workers typically have more one-on-one time with clients than any other member of the healthcare team.

They provide the kind of personalized care and support that busy doctors, nurses, and family members simply can't offer.

Because they work so closely with clients and spend so much time with them, PSWs are frequently the first ones to notice important changes in health or behaviour.

A PSW program trains students to recognize signs of abuse, neglect, physical decline, and poor mental health. Personal support workers can alert other team members so that patients get the care they need right away.

PSWs also look out for their clients' social and emotional needs. They help clients participate in social activities and maintain connections with friends.

Krizia, a PSW at Hillel Lodge in Ottawa, explains what the career means to her:

"To be a PSW, you should have compassion for others and a deep desire to help people.  Having patience is also very important. And you must be willing to continue learning each and every day.

For me, the most rewarding part is seeing my clients happy with the care that I provide for them."

 

want TO BECOME A PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKER?

Think a PSW career could be right for you? Now is the perfect time to start training.

In response to the enormous demand for PSWs, the Ontario government recently launched the Personal Support Worker Challenge Fund.

The fund provides a bursary to help PSW students cover tuition, books, supplies, and work placement costs. That basically means the government will pay for your training.

But you must begin your program by July 31st to be eligible.

Herzing College is currently accepting applications for our summer PSW program. Training takes just 8 months and includes 2 work placements.

Click below to explore the program and see if you qualify for funding!

Explore the Personal Support Worker Program