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Becoming a Personal Support Worker in Ontario

2017-04-04 by Mark Harrington


The description of a Personal Support Worker will always vary from job to job but in general, some of the most common duties are:

  • Following a care plan, observing and reporting any substantial findings and/or changes in patient/resident/client’s behavior to the appropriate registered member of the healthcare team.
  • Working under the supervision of a Registered Healthcare Professional such as a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN)
  • Performing tasks delegated to them (only if they are trained to perform the delegated task)
  • Assisting with ambulation, positioning and transferring using mechanical lifts such as a Hoyer lift.
  • Assisting or providing total personal care such as toileting, and bathing.
  • Assisting with eating, dressing and grooming.
  • Assisting nursing staff by answering call bells (In Hospitals and Long-Term care homes)
  • Performing sitter duty or patient-watch for confused patients in clinical care settings.
  • Computer or paper documentation of Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) and other findings.
  • Reporting behavioral and clinical changes to a Registered Nurse, Registered Practical Nurse, Resource Nurse or Manager.

In addition to the basic outline of a Personal Support Worker, there are a number of different employment opportunities across Ontario.  Personal Support Work is a highly employable field with many positions available at various healthcare locations such as hospitals, private healthcare facilities, hospices, retirement and nursing residences, palliative care units and in-home care positions.

For more information about earning your certificate in Personal Support Work and becoming career ready in less than a year, contact National Academy of Health & Business today.

Your College, For Life.  Since 1979.

Toronto Campus – 416.545.0404

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Hamilton Campus – 905.521.9991

The Benefits of Working With Elderly Patients

2015-08-26 by Mark Harrington

personal support worker training

Supporting the elderly members of your community can result in amazing benefits for both your patients and yourself. Those who pursue careers in elderly care build close relationships with a variety of wonderful and interesting people. This lets them find personal and professional fulfillment while giving back to the generations that had a hand in building today’s world.

If you are planning to enroll in personal support worker courses, or you have already started your program, read on to learn some of the most valuable parts of working in elderly patient support.

PSWs Greatly Impact the Lives of Individual Patients

Dedicating your time to helping an elderly person in need will make a real difference in that person’s life. Elderly patients and nursing home residents truly need the services you will learn to provide. Without personal support workers (PSW), their comfort and confidence might decline.

These patients may have difficulty bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, or independently caring for their health. PSWs often advocate for their needs, and even take note of a patient’s temperature and blood pressure—all to ensure that they’re as healthy and happy as possible. PSWs become the vital ingredient for an elderly person’s best possible life.

Support Professionals Earn Gratitude Through Providing Compassionate Care

PSW courses will teach you just how much value you’ll be adding to your patients’ lives, but today’s support workers attest that you’ll often hear it from the patients themselves. Smiling faces and heartfelt appreciation remind support professionals that they’re making a difference, and help keep them motivated to continue their care work.

A personal support worker’s frequent presence and kind, warm nature can also become an important part of their patient’s social lives. Often, a friendly appointment or visit is the highlight of a patient’s day. Your presence can make the difference between a lonely patient and a happy, fulfilled one. This means you’ll be greeted as a friend each time you enter your workplace, something not many modern professionals get to experience.

PSWs Receive Continued Education through Trust and “Time Travel”

While personal support worker training will teach you how best to provide elderly care, your education is just beginning at graduation. Personal care workers have the unique opportunity to learn every single day, from experience, colleagues, and especially their individual patients.

Working with people who have varying ages and longstanding memories can enrich your understanding and appreciation for times long past.

If you’re passionate about supporting elderly members of your family or community, you’ll know that those who’ve lived long lives can offer incredible lessons to those willing to listen. PSW professionals can build trusting relationships with these incredible people, gathering stories of historical events and individual cultural legacies that can span decades upon decades. You can’t get these genuinely touching connections to the past anywhere else.

Job Security for Personal Support Workers

If you’re interested in earning a personal support worker diploma, you probably aren’t doing it just for yourself. Students enrolled in PSW programs tend to be compassionate people, likely to put others’ needs before their own. However, job security is an undeniable added benefit to earning this diploma and supporting others.

These days, people are living longer—needing infrastructure to provide them with a high quality of life throughout the duration of their retirements. As the post-WWII baby boomer generation reaches closer to their golden years, the sector is quickly growing to accommodate them. In fact, there is no better time to become certified in personal support work.

Are you interested in enrolling in personal support worker courses? Visit NAHB for more information or to speak with an advisor. 

Maintaining Patient Safety as a PSW

2015-02-04 by Mark Harrington

Personal support worker course

A personal support worker is responsible for the well-being of someone who is no longer able to care for themselves. Upon completing your PSW courses, this kind of responsibility may seem overwhelming; however, ensuring the proper care of others can be an extremely rewarding experience. Being a PSW is a unique line of health care work, because the bond you form with your patients is able to grow and flourish over time. Often, you will become one of their dearest friends.

A personal support worker also has the responsibility of being aware of the dangers facing their patients. Some of these dangers can come from seemingly innocuous objects around the house, which can easily be safeguarded. Other times, the threats come from other family members in the form of abuse or neglect. In any case, your personal support worker training will help you recognize these dangers in order to provide the utmost safety and wellbeing for your clients.

Dangers Around the House

The most common household injuries are caused by falling down the stairs. For patients who may be suffering memory loss, injuries on the stairs can happen for reasons as simple as forgetting the way to the bathroom at night. A PSW may suggest that a patient install night lights in their hallways to avoid such incidences.

A common danger for those with restricted mobility is slippery floors. This could be an oil spill in the kitchen or a slippery bathtub. To keep a patient safe, a PSW should make sure the house is kept clean, and suggest that the patient have railings installed in the shower, paired with a safety-grip shower mat.

Elderly Abuse

It’s important to note that elderly abuse can come in many forms, be it physical, psychological or sexual. There are certain telling symptoms a PSW will be able to recognize as a result of their personal support worker courses. If you notice inexplicable scars, bruises or other injuries on your patient, they may be suffering physical abuse by someone close to them.

Sometimes, the elderly patient may not be able to remember who caused the injuries. In other instances, they are hiding the truth to protect a loved one who may be suffering from mental or psychological distress. If a patient’s family refuses to see you alone, this could also be an indication of problems.

Psychological symptoms of abuse may be harder to recognize. If a PSW witnesses a relative speaking sternly or cruelly to the patient, it may be necessary to speak to them about their behaviour. If it is clear this is an ongoing pattern, a personal support worker should look for ways to assist the patient and remove them from the situation.

Financial Exploitation

A wealthy patient whose mind may be slipping into dementia can be taken advantage of by family or friends. Unexplained withdrawals of money or suddenly missing valuables may be a sign that the patient’s condition is being taken advantage of. While these instances are rare, it can be necessary for the PSW to step up in these situations, as the patient may be unable to themselves.

Do you know any other ways a PSW can keep help maintain a patient’s safety?

A PSW’s Guide to First Aid

2015-01-14 by Mark Harrington

first aidIf you plan to pursue personal support worker training, you may one day find yourself working in a nursing home, hospital, or private residence. Here, you will be responsible for caring for the elderly. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the people you’ll eventually be helping will likely face a range of chronic health conditions. Though PSWs do not follow a set list of duties, one common skill that they are all required to master is the ability to react effectively and efficiently in emergency situations. Read on to find how a personal support worker uses first aid to react in an emergency while on the job.

Treating Someone Who is Choking

Anyone who has taken a personal support worker course knows how to properly react in a situation where a person is choking. The first thing these professionals do is give the choking individual five blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of their hand. If the choking persists, the PSW moves on to abdominal thrusts. In order to perform these effectively, they:

  • Stand behind the person and wrap their arms around the waist
  • Place a clenched fist directly above the person’s navel, grabbing the fist with the other hand
  • Quickly pull inward and upward

The PSW will alternate between cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object that the person is choking on is coughed up or dislodged and they begin to breathe regularly. It’s important to note that if the individual is pregnant, the personal support worker will perform the abdominal thrusts by placing his or her hand just above the stomach at the base of the breastbone to ensure that the baby will not be harmed.

Identifying the Signs of Stroke

As people age, the risk of stroke increases – this means that personal support workers (who work with the elderly) definitely need to understand how to identify the symptoms of stroke, as well as know the protocol for providing help. Students enrolled in PSW courses know that it is important to contact emergency services immediately if they notice a patient is experiencing the telltale signs of stroke, these include:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs (especially if the numbness occurs on only one side of the body)
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble seeing
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness or balance problems
  • Sudden confusion
  • Severe headache

A PSW will be expected to record the time when the symptoms first appeared. There are several different types of strokes, and some can be treated with a medication that reduces the long-term effects. If this medication is available, it will be administered to the patient within the first four hours of noticing the symptoms. If the individual is diabetic, blood sugar level should be measured – low blood sugar can be treated with a glucose tablet, or even a glass of a sugary beverage, like orange juice.

Have you ever delivered first aid during a medical emergency? What tips can you offer for remaining cool and calm?

Understanding Disabilities as a PSW

2014-12-24 by Mark Harrington

Elderly Patient and Nurse

Students taking personal support worker training today will likely go on to serve Canada’s growing elderly population, assisting in their everyday tasks and day-to-day needs. An important aspect of PSW courses is learning to help patients manage their disabilities – both physical and mental – that are commonly associated with old age. While some students may have some experience helping family members cope with ailments, many age-related disabilities are quite complicated. PSWs need knowledge and training to do their job well. Read on to learn more about some of the most common disabilities and conditions associated with older patients.


Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses over time, gradually causing the loss of bodily functions. Alzheimer patients usually begin by suffering memory loss, furthered by mood swings, speech problems and disorientation. Alzheimer’s has three stages: mild, moderate and severe. In the severe stage, patients will usually require assistance with eating, dressing and general mobility.


Patients with arthritis often find waking up in the morning most difficult, due to overnight joint stiffness. Since arthritis patients are mostly affected at their joints, it is important they keep active, but not strain themselves. Being overweight can make arthritis worse, which is why personal support worker courses train students how to prepare and cook healthy meals for patients. Exercise may also be necessary, as will some minor assistance carrying heavy or awkward items.

Senior with painful arm


Characterized by a high risk of fracture, osteoporosis is a disease that causes deterioration of the bone tissue and bone mass. Lifestyle habits can greatly improve an osteoporosis patient’s life, since bones grow stronger with activity. A personal support worker may help clients perform some light exercises – those involving lifting weights are best for exercising the bone. Other exercises may include dancing, walking, stairs or small weight lifting.


Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. The disease is characterised by tremors due to a lack of dopamine and a subsequent loss of muscle control. Parkinson’s patients may have difficulty walking, moving, and the disease can cause constipation and issues swallowing. Personal support workers assigned to a Parkinson’s patient are responsible for monitoring changes in the patient’s disease, such as dizziness or confusion, which may put them at risk for falling.


A stroke is a complicated condition with a wide variety of health consequences. Someone is more at risk for stroke if they are overweight, elderly or lack physical activity. A stroke can be extremely debilitating, causing paralysis in half the body, slowed body movements, vision problems and short term memory loss. After having one stroke, a patient has a higher risk of suffering another. A personal support worker may help a patient with speech exercises, playing memory games, puzzles or crosswords. Range of motion exercises can also be beneficial for stroke sufferers to promote flexibility and reduce stiffness in their muscles.

Have you had experience working with a patient with one of these conditions? What were the main challenges?


Improving Patients’ Daily Lives as a Personal Support Worker

2014-06-25 by Mark Harrington

nahbA combination of health care restructuring and an aging population make Canada an ideal market for the personal support worker. More and more patients are recovering from injuries, chronic health conditions, and operations at home – and long term care facilities are expecting an influx of clients in the years to come.

Professionals holding a personal support worker diploma will find opportunities for employment in both the public and private sector. Working with clients of all ages and diverse care requirements, they support the patient’s day-to-day wellness by performing a wide range of tasks.

Here are 3 invaluable ways the PSW improves patients’ lives:

Medical Support

Graduates of PSW courses are fully trained health care professionals. As part of a collaborative medical team, they routinely monitor and document each patient’s vital signs. Personal support workers take blood pressure, temperature and pulse, collect specimens as needed, and report their observations to doctors and nurses. The PSW also helps prepare patients for operations, ensures that medicines are taken as prescribed, and even assists in the cleaning and sterilization of equipment. Covering all the bases, personal support workers are there from start to finish, a continual point of contact for patients, their families, and other members of the medical health care team.

Emotional Support

Nurses are busy, doctors are often seen only briefly – but the PSW is always accessible and on hand for patients who need special care. And they do much more than look after a client’s physical well being. The PSW is a particularly caring and empathetic professional who watches over the mental and emotional condition of each patient. If working in a home setting, they will ease the burden of daily chores, taking care of laundry, light house work, and even grocery shopping. Like a close friend, they establish a personal connection with patients – offering a relaxing massage or talking through concerns and fears. The PSW addresses the full needs of the patient, from the practical to the emotional.

Recreational Support

Professionals in the field and students currently enrolled in a personal support worker course understand that patient care extends beyond the home or health care facility. Not only does the PSW supervise doctor-approved exercise, they will often make arrangements for patients to get outdoors and participate in social events. After getting to know the interests of their patients and taking into account any special needs, personal support workers set up activities and social opportunities, accompanying clients to and from events. This aspect of support is crucial to the patient’s sense of community connection, which in turn helps facilitate emotional wellbeing and medical recovery.

Working hand in hand, these 3 crucial areas of support form the basis of the PSW’s job profile – and the foundation of empathetic, personalized health care in Canada.

What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of working as a PSW?

Rewarding Careers as a Community Service Worker

2014-04-16 by Mark Harrington

Community Service Workers help locate or implement medical, personal and other assistance to any number of groups in need. They can be found working with all members of the community, including homeless persons, pregnant teenagers, people with substance abuse problems and so many more. As community services expand, the need for qualified workers becomes greater in a variety of different sectors. Community Service is a challenging but very rewarding career that allows you to improve the quality of life for those who are in need or at risk.

A Community Service Worker guides members of the community towards the services and assistance they require when facing personal or social problems. They must be able to assess and meet a client’s physical, medical, emotional and behavioural support needs. Depending on the type of workplace, these individuals can have any number of additional duties. They may be asked to prepare reports, interview clients to determine their needs, refer clients to appropriate services and provide crisis intervention when necessary. Community service workers counsel clients to determine their progress and resolve any difficulties or problems they may be having. Workers refer clients to residential, in-patient, detoxification or mental health programs, and sometimes accompany clients to treatment programs. Moreover, some positions may require light medical office assistant training.

Career Opportunities

With such a variety of responsibilities, community service is a career that is always evolving and exciting. With the right training, such as a personal support worker course, you’ll be able to quickly find a rewarding career in a wide variety of workplaces, including:

  • Community Legal Centres
  • Mental Health Agencies
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Women’s or Youth Refuges or Crisis Centres
  • Residential Aged Care Services and Community Aged Care Services
  • Juvenile Residential Facilities
  • Alcohol and Drug Services
  • Advocacy Services
  • Aged or Disability Respite Services

The right profile

Community service is a unique career field, in that your demeanor and personal attributes will directly come into play as part of your daily duties. Some of the skills and personal traits that can help you become a successful community service worker include:

  • Exceptional organizational skills
  • An ability to work well under pressure
  • Solid problem-solving skills
  • Significant use of memory
  • Superior ability to multi-task
  • A helpful and positive attitude, even in difficult circumstances
  • Empathy and compassion for clients
  • Good communication skills
  • A desire to contribute to the safety and dignity of clients

Regardless of where your career takes you, you can be sure that community service will provide you with challenging and deeply rewarding work. Through training, including PSW courses, and hands-on experience, you’ll learn about psychology, communications, ethics, diversity, social justice, poverty, addiction, multicultural backgrounds, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, mental health issues, working with families and more. You’ll promote the rights of your clients and encourage them to meet their responsibilities in a way that empowers them. If helping others is in your blood, community service might just be the career you were looking for.


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