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What is a Personal Support Worker?

Province: CA

They wear scrubs. Different colours & patterns, with enough pockets to hold a pen, gloves and anything else they may need to help them with their job. It's a Saturday. Christmas Day. 1:00 am. This type of work has no time limit. They're tired but happy. They're frustrated but empathetic. They have a name but it often gets lost in the confusion of their job title: Personal Support Worker.  

A Personal Support Worker (or PSW) is an unregulated healthcare provider who is trained to work with individuals who require assistance in everyday living such as; Activities of Daily Living (or ADL's) which may include bathing, food preparation, toilet duties and anything else a person may need assistance with.  A PSW is the eyes, ears, arms and legs for those they serve. 

Because PSWs are not regulated, it is important to know as much about your care provider as possible. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Anyone reputable will have no problem giving you honest, professional answers.  

There are three (3) accepted curriculums for Personal Support Worker training in Ontario: Community College, Career College & The Board of Education. If your PSW has not completed their schooling with one of the three just mentioned, then they are NOT a Personal Support Worker. 

As it stands right now, PSWs are not accountable to any one organization. The PSW Registry is the closest government run registry for PSWs in the province, however it is nothing more than a list of personal data of numerous levels of caregivers as well as PSWs. If you were to inquire about your PSW with the registry, you would get basic information such as their name and when they registered with the registry.  There is also The Ontario Personal Support Worker Association (OPSWA) which is a not for profit association run by PSWs for PSWs. Personal Support Workers who have committed to excellence by becoming members of a professional body have chosen to take their vocation seriously. OPSWA mandates that the PSW abide by a Code of Ethics, follow a Scope Of Practice and Standards of Care. The association also validates a PSWs certificate to make sure that they have in fact had proper schooling as well as doing complete background and criminal record checks.  

Ask questions. Ask to see proof of schooling. Ask for criminal record checks. PSWs are involved in the most intimate levels of care with some of society’s most vulnerable people, it is crucial that they be held accountable.  

To become a PSW is an honour. Often times the Personal Support Worker becomes a part of the family, being that confidant and friend. It takes a very special person to become a great PSW. Not just anyone can do their job.

The Ontario Personal Support Worker Association


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