Personal Support Workforce in the North East
What is a Personal Support Worker?
A Personal Support Worker (PSW) is a front-line health care worker who helps people with daily tasks such as getting dressed, eating, doing exercises, getting around, and other things that help patients recover or live comfortably. Some PSWs work in hospitals or long-term care homes, but in the home and community care sector, PSWs help people where they live — in their homes.
Why Become a PSW?
- Fulfilling work – As a PSW you are making a difference in people’s lives whether you are helping to maintain their independence living at home or improving their quality of life in long term care or hospital. PSWs provide meaningful, compassionate care to their clients who range in age from young children to seniors.
- Job security – there is a shortage of PSWs in the North East region and in Ontario as a whole. As our population ages, PSWs will continue to be in demand
- Flexible hours – Many personal support jobs, particularly in home and community care, offer flexibility in terms of work hours.
- Short training – Certification ranges between four months to one year. Some employers also offer training or to pay for training.
- Opportunities to specialize – PSWs are always learning on the job and there are many opportunities to specialize and train to serve special client groups such as people with blindness or visual impairments, people dementia, palliative care patient, people with autism and more.
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Shortage of Personal Support Workers in the North East
Here in the Northeast region, similar to other areas across the province, shortages of Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are having an impact on the health care system. For home and community care clients, it means they might be put on a wait-list for a service or experience missed PSW visits. Long-term Care homes are having problems staffing as well resulting in being short-staffed on some shifts. This shortage is also affecting Northeastern Ontario hospitals’ ability to discharge patients in a timely manner, as the patients wait for providers in the community to have space to take on new clients. While health human resources challenges have occurred in the past, the situation has become more acute in both urban and rural areas.
The North East LHIN has taken many measures and tried new initiatives to make better use of the existing workforce and help spread the word that more PSWs are need including: moving to a Client-Partnered Scheduling model; supporting PSW recruitment fairs; directing the use of Registered Practical Nurses for high need patients instead of PSWs; funding the Canadian Red Cross to create a culturally specific PSW program for people living in the James Bay Coastal community; funding collaborative pilot projects between long term care homes and colleges; piloting a Cluster Care model for Retirement homes; and initiating a new a Neighbourhood Care model in areas where many seniors live. However, a region wide approach with multiple stakeholders taking responsibility to help grow this professional workforce is needed.
North East LHIN PSW Task Force Creates an Action Plan
In the spring of 2018, a regional North East LHIN PSW Task Force was struck--made up of North East LHIN staff and multiple partners including a PSW, home and community care providers, long term care homes, a post-secondary institution and employment organization—with the purpose of identifying measures to counter challenges with the recruitment and retention of PSWs as well as capacity shortages in the North East. It was tasked with creating an Action Plan with a number of both short-term and long-term solutions. The Task Force’s Action Plan (finalized in November of 2018) has identified several priority areas including: oversight and coordination; working conditions and compensation; and collaboration and innovation.
Click here to read the plan.
Implementing the Plan – Regional PSW Workforce Steering Committee
To guide the implementation this plan, a Regional PSW Workforce Steering Committee has been established (see membership). (February of 2019). Its members will form work groups to implement many of the actions identified by the plan; seek input and relay information from their respective sectors; offer in-kind resources, where possible, to support the committee’s work; and champion the committee’s efforts.