Working in Home Care vs Nursing Home After PSW College

Updated January 2023

Looking ahead to your job options after PSW college? Still deciding which kind of healthcare setting would best suit your particular preferences and skillset?

Two of the most common employers for PSWs are nursing homes and home care companies. While personal support workers provide similar services in both work environments, there are some unique differences students should be aware of. 

In this post, we'll walk through some of the most typical distinctions between working at nursing homes versus in clients' homes.

Travelling to client homes versus working in a residence

If you decide to work for a home care company, you will be travelling to client's homes each day. The number of clients' homes you visit will depend on the policies of the company you work for and whether you work full or part-time hours.

As a home-based PSW, you will likely have some clients you work with regularly and others who you support less frequently as a respite provider.  Respite care means stepping in to provide support while the primary caregiver—usually a family member—takes some time off (to attend appointments, run errands, travel out of town, etc.).

Respite is essential for primary caregivers, who need breaks from the emotional and physical demands of looking after loved ones.

As a full-time nursing home PSW,  you'll remain at one facility for an eight-hour shift each day, looking after a certain number of assigned clients each shift (usually around eight clients per PSW). You'll follow the specific rules and routines of the nursing home, work with four or five other PSWs, and take instructions from the residence management team.

Working weekends and overtime is common in both home care and nursing homes. For PSWs working in client homes, travel to remote locations may be necessary. A valid driver's licence is typically a requirement for home care positions.

How duties differ for PSWs in nursing homes vs home care setting

PSWs in home care and nursing home settings perform many similar duties while looking after clients. These general responsibilities include:

  • Assisting clients with bathing, grooming, toileting, eating, and mobility
  • Helping to administer prescribed medications, changing wound dressings if needed, and assisting with any therapeutic exercises included in the client's care plan
  • Ensuring the client's room is tidy and well-organized
  • Recording and reporting changes in the client's behaviour or condition

However, if you choose to work in clients' homes, your responsibilities will also include things like:

  • Planning meals
  • Doing grocery shopping
  • Cooking and light housekeeping
  • Taking clients to community activities, appointments, etc.
  • Coordinating with family members

In many ways, home care PSWs become "part of the family" and are trained to take charge of many household management tasks their clients can no longer do independently.


PSWs in nursing homes work exclusively with elderly people, helping them maintain as much independence and quality of life as possible as they cope with chronic conditions and the natural effects of aging.

On the other hand, PSWs who provide home care will find themselves working with clients of all ages. From babies and young children with special needs to young adults with debilitating diseases or temporary injuries—and of course, elderly folks who prefer to stay in their homes rather than move into a long-term care facility.

So, with home care, your client base will be more diverse in terms of age and the kinds of conditions and injuries you encounter.

Both work environments will demand very strong time management skills, patience, compassion, and a rigorous attention to detail. In both career paths, you will need to learn and follow company protocols, communicate effectively with loved ones, and be sure to take care of your health (PSW work is quite demanding, both physically and emotionally).

Interested in learning more about different PSW career paths?

Consider Herzing College's Personal Support Worker training, delivered at our Ottawa and Toronto campuses. Click below to browse program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Personal Support Worker Program in Ottawa

Explore the Personal Support Worker Program in Toronto


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