Today, there are over 600 million people in the world over 60 years of age. This number is expected to double by 2025 and reach 2 billion by 2050. The aging population is characterized by an increased burden of non-communicable diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other mental illnesses associated with old age, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and musculoskeletal problems. As a result, healthcare systems worldwide will face increasing demand especially services that cater to the elderly.
In fact, now is one of the best times to work as a personal support worker. Why? There is an increasing need for people working in this role across Canada because of the aging population. The demand for them is so great that the government is even devoting millions of dollars to their training.
Are you researching for a career path that doesn’t require a college degree? The personal support worker role might be a good one to explore. Here’s a guide on what the role entails, the available opportunities, and what it takes to secure a job.
What is a Personal Support Worker?
Personal support workers are people who help the elderly and those that are ill. They assist individuals that are unable because of ill-health, age, injury, or disability to do normal daily tasks of living. The ultimate aim of this role is to ensure that clients live comfortably and safely, with a great feeling of well-being.
Someone working on this job is often simply called a PSW. The National Occupational Classification (NOC) permits persons working in the role to use a variety of titles, including home support worker, patient care aide, health care aide, or nursing attendant. The specific title depends on the nature of care a PSW provides or the facility where they work.
PSWs are part of what people often call unregulated healthcare providers. There is no single body dictating the standards in terms of know-how and skills that you must have to practice. This further reduces the barriers to entry.
What Are the Duties of a PSW?
The duties expected of a personal support worker depend on the individual they are helping. However, the major expectations usually include:
- Taking care of clients during periods of illness, disability, or recovery
- Assisting with typical tasks of daily living, including bathing, dressing, and toileting
- Performance of light housekeeping chores, including cleaning dishes, making beds, and doing laundry for clients
- Planning and preparing meals as well as feeding clients
- Helping to ensure that clients take their medications correctly and at the right time
- Assisting with shopping for daily needs
- Spending time talking with and providing informal counseling when there’s a need for it
- Guiding new parents on the care of their babies
It doesn’t necessarily mean that every PSW is expected to perform the above duties. As noted earlier, the needs of each client would dictate the specific duties.
The job of a personal support worker is one of the easiest jobs to get in health care when you consider the educational requirements. You only need to have a high school education to stand a chance of working as one. A college degree is not required.
You’d need to get training to enhance your chances of landing a job, however. A PSW certificate from an accredited institution could boost your prospects tremendously.
We stated previously that this occupation is largely unregulated for now. For this reason, accreditation can vary in different places across Canada.
Getting trained to become a personal support worker does not take a long time. In less than a year, you can become a certified practitioner. The comprehensive PSW certificate course offered by the Academy of Learning takes just 28 weeks.
A good training program equips you with knowledge of body systems, safety, and mobility, among others. It exposes you to signs of neglect, abuse, or physical/mental decline so that you can know the best time to call for special help.
It is worth mentioning as well that there are certain skills needed to make you a great PSW. Among the ones that can help you thrive in this career path are:
- Good problem-solving skills
- Excellent knowledge and passion to care for others
- Ability to work effectively alone or as part of a team
- Ability to grasp and adhere to emergency procedures
- Readiness or willingness to continue learning on the job
- A patient attitude
In addition, you need good communication skills. You are expected to be interacting with clients or residents regularly to help them overcome the feeling of loneliness. PSWs are also considered the voice of their clients – they help to communicate observed issues to the right quarters.
In Ontario, you need to have a good command of English (both verbal and written) to work as a personal support worker.
According to the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the prospects for PSWs are “Good.” This compares well against some jobs in the field such as health educator and blood donor clinic assistant.
This is understandable when you consider that the number of people age 65 or older is increasing in the country. Family members are at the same time becoming increasingly too busy to take care of their older loved ones. It is this situation of things that makes more and more families turn to PSWs.
As a trained personal support worker, you can work in a variety of places, including:
- Nursing homes
- Retirement homes
- Long-term care facilities
- Home care agencies
- Community care centers
A certified PSW may also choose to work independently if they can find a way to get clients to provide home care.
An interesting angle to this in Ontario is that the government is actually encouraging home care with its Aging at Home Strategy. This suggests the creation of more openings for PSWs to help provide care at home rather than at facilities.
The average hourly rate for personal support workers is $14.85, according to the HRSDC. This is close to the average hourly earnings of an early childhood educator assistant, a job that requires a college or university degree. And according to PayScale Canada, you could earn up to $44,000 a year working as a PSW.