What Is a Personal Support Worker (PSW)? 2024 Qualifications

A personal support worker helps a patient in their home

quick answer

A Personal Support Worker (PSW) is a health care professional who helps their patients with tasks like medication management, daily hygiene, and even running errands. They work in private homes or facilities, supporting patients with various injuries and illnesses.

Whether you’ve just had a baby, are recovering from surgery, or are dealing with chronic illness, there might be a period where you need extra help. 

Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are health care professionals who step in for these situations. They help patients complete daily tasks and perform basic care so they can go about their lives with as little disruption as possible.

If you want to make a career change where you work closely with patients with a mix of health care and personal support tasks, then becoming a PSW can be a fulfilling career choice. Below, we’ll dive into what the daily life of a PSW looks like, what education you need, and how to become a PSW in Canada.

 A chart recapping personal support workers’ responsibilities with an icon for each duty.

 

What Does a PSW Do? 8 Duties and Responsibilities

The day-to-day of a PSW can look very different depending on the working environment, patients’ needs, and the PSW’s qualifications. Some PSWs act more like a personal assistant, running errands and providing basic support for their patients. Others may perform more complex health care tasks like collecting samples to monitor patients’ health or helping with physical therapy.

Below, we go into detail about the eight most common health care duties you might perform as a PSW.

1. Provide Basic Medical Care

Depending on their qualifications, a PSW is expected to perform basic medical care and assist with activities of daily living (ADLs). This typically includes administering medications, turning bed-bound patients, mending wounds, and collecting samples. These daily tasks are vital to providing a better quality of life and maintaining a patient’s health.

2. Help With Housekeeping

Many people who need a PSW are older or have physical limitations. PSWs help with laundry, dishes, meal preparation, and other housekeeping tasks so the patient can live in a safe, comfortable, and sanitary environment.

3. Run Errands 

Some patients might be unable to leave their home or facility. Others might be able to but need someone to accompany them with these tasks. PSWs might drive their patients to appointments, do the grocery shopping, and run other errands. 

4. Assist With Physical Therapy 

If a patient is in physical therapy, the PSW can help them complete their exercises to keep them on track with their treatment plan. The PSW may also be asked to observe the patient and report any improvements or regression to other medical professionals to optimize the patient’s treatment plan.

5. Provide Physical and Emotional Support

PSWs spend a lot of time with their patients — in many cases, they build friendships with them and provide emotional support. A PSW can act as the “eyes and ears” and monitor the patient’s emotional well-being. They might also help patients with physical limitations with tasks such as climbing stairs safely, getting out of bed, or using the restroom.

6. Maintain a Safe Environment

Whether a PSW works in a home or a facility, they’ll be responsible for helping the patient and their family maintain a safe environment. This includes assessing fall risks, suggesting accessibility adaptations, and monitoring for other potential risks, such as elder abuse.

7. Give Medication

Administering medication is an important part of a PSW’s job. Some patients, such as memory care patients, may struggle with schedules or remembering the correct dose. PSWs ensure patients take their medications properly to support their overall health.

8. Educate Patients in Transition

PSWs work with patients with many different needs. They might work with new parents, patients adjusting to a new disability, or someone recovering from a major surgery. During these times, a PSW helps patients adjust to these new circumstances so they can be as independent as possible. For example, a PSW might help a new wheelchair user learn how to get out of bed safely. 

Chart outlining some characteristics and skills it takes to be a good Personal Support Worker.

Personal Support Worker Job Description

Job postings contain basic information about the company or client, a job summary, required skills, necessary qualifications, and salary information. Below, we’ll share how this might look for home and facility positions to help you with your job search.

Home Job Summary

We’re seeking a qualified Personal Support Worker to help a family member who is aging in place. This individual needs a moderate level of support, including assistance with grocery shopping, laundry, and monitoring their physical well-being, as they are at a low fall risk. We’re looking for an individual who wants to connect with their patients, become a companion, and provide support.

Facility Job Summary

We’re hiring a Personal Support Worker to join the memory care team at our facility. In this role, you will interact with and support our community members with tasks such as medication administration, emotional support, and hygiene. We’re looking for caring and kind individuals who enjoy engaging with multiple patients and facilitating communication with other care providers and families as necessary.

Responsibilities

  • Administer and manage medication schedule
  • Assist with errands such as grocery shopping 
  • Help patients with ADLs such as meal prep
  • Record any changes in patient physical and emotional well-being
  • Create and maintain a safe environment
  • Help with bathing, using the restroom, and other hygiene tasks

Qualifications

  • CPR and first aid certification
  • Personal Support Worker certificate from a recognized program
  • Strong communication skills
  • Experience managing multiple patient schedules
  • Physically able to perform tasks such as lifting patients for transfers
  • Previous PSW experience preferred
  • Driver’s license and access to own transportation preferred

The job description may vary based on the work setting or individual — tailor your application to each description to help your resume get noticed. As with any position, you may not have every skill or requirement, but it’s always worth applying and speaking with the Hiring Manager to see if you’d be a good fit for the role.

Image outlines the steps to becoming a Personal Support Worker.

How To Become a PSW

If you’re interested in becoming a PSW, you might be unsure where to start. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from education and licensing requirements to how to apply for the right position so you can start your career.

1. Begin Your Education 

There are no official requirements for becoming a PSW in Canada. However, the vast majority of employers look for PSWs with a background in care. A Bachelor’s Degree in a health-related field is helpful, but specialized education like a Health Care Aide Certificate is especially beneficial in building the educational foundation to become a PSW.

2. Get Specialized Experience

Most employers will want to see a PSW applicant with relevant experience. Opportunities such as internships, volunteering, or working a related job such as a Community Support Worker can help you learn the necessary skills to become a PSW. 

3. Apply for a PSW Position

The last step is to apply for a PSW position. You can find jobs at hospitals, long-term care facilities, or health care agencies. There might also be opportunities on job boards where families are searching on behalf of their loved ones. 

PSW Salary and Future Prospects

According to the Government of Canada, the median hourly wage for a PSW is $19.02, from $15.50 an hour in Manitoba and New Brunswick to $34.52 in Nunavut.

Personal Support Workers are in high demand in Canada. There are more positions than expected applicants, so now is a great time to start building the experience for your Personal Support Worker career.

Here’s the median salary for PSWs in each province and territory:

Source: Government of Canada
Personal Support Worker Salary by Location
Province or Territory Median Hourly Wage
Manitoba $15.50
New Brunswick $15.50
Prince Edward Island $16
Newfoundland and Labrador $16.84
Nova Scotia $18
Alberta $19
Quebec $19.65
Saskatchewan $20
Ontario $20
British Columbia $22.90
Northwest Territories $28.75
Yukon $30
Nunavut $34.52

Health Care Aide vs. PSW: Which Is Right for You? 

Health Care Aides and Personal Support Workers have similar roles, but Health Care Aides are certified to provide more complex medical care than PSWs. This includes tasks like administering injectable medications, performing more complex medical care, and collecting more invasive samples than a PSW would. 

Both positions are in-demand health care careers that Robertson College can help prepare you for. Our hybrid Health Care Aide program at our Manitoba and Alberta campuses provides everything you need to know to become a Health Care Aide or Personal Support Worker so you can offer proper emotional and physical care to support your patients.

Ready to start your career as a PSW or Health Care Aide? Learn more about programs from our School of Health.

FAQ

If you’re considering becoming a PSW, read on for more information.

What’s the Difference Between a PCA and a PSW?

The main difference between a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) and a PSW is that PCAs typically work with individuals with behavioural health issues. PSWs sometimes have patients with behavioural health issues but also help individuals with physical health issues.

What’s the Difference Between PSW and a Health Care Aide?

The main difference between a Health Care Aide and a PSW is that a Health Care Aide provides more complex health care for their patients, such as administering intravenous medications.

How Much Do PSWs Make in Ontario?

According to the Government of Canada, the median PSW wage is $20 an hour in Ontario, which is slightly above the national median of $19.02 an hour.

What Is a Canadia PSW?

A PSW in Canada has the same responsibilities as anywhere else—they help patients with ADLs and provide support. There are no official requirements to become a PSW in Canada. Employers typically look for candidates with hands-on care experience or an educational background in health.

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