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Pros & cons of becoming a personal support worker

20-May-2020

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What motivates you to become a personal support worker (PSW)? In our experience working with PSW students, there are usually key reasons why people are drawn to this career.

One of the reasons is the high demand for PSW in Ontario and many parts of Canada. If you are looking for permanent health care, this is a great choice. It is hoped that our aging population will continue to create employment opportunities for PSW in the future.

Another great motivation is the one-on-one time that personal support workers get to spend with clients. If you are looking for more than just "a job" and want to make a real connection with people, then PSW is the obvious choice.

But, like all careers, becoming a personal support worker comes with some challenges. What do you need to know before you invest in training and start this path?

Look at the most common advantages of working as a personal support worker and see if this role suits you.

 Pro: making a real difference in people’s lives

This is the number one reason to become a personal support worker and this is the biggest benefit of choosing this career. This work makes a big difference in people's lives.

PSWs do what nurses, doctors and even family can’t always do: they spend a lot of meaningful time with patients.

Personal support workers help their clients in the day-to-day tasks they cannot do independently - bathing, grooming, grocery shopping, cleaning, medication reminders, cooking, and attending meetings.

PSW also provides companionship and emotional support. This is an important part of the role and why they are often in close contact with patients and families.

As a personal support worker, the life of another human being is in your hands. The family trusts you in the health and well-being of their loved one. This responsibility brings great satisfaction and fulfillment.

Most PSWs say that there is a lot of gratitude from family and clients who really appreciate the work they do. They love to brighten their clients' days and make them smile and care. This is what being a personal support worker is all about.

Con: losing and challenging patients

Of course, there are emotional challenges involved in caring for the elderly, disabled or chronic patients. You may find yourself caring for someone with a cognitive or mental health problem - or a disturbed, lonely, uncooperative patient.

There are times when an angry patient, or a patient who has difficulty communicating and following instructions, has to deal with it. You may be facing the death of a recent client.

The work that PSW does is very personal. They often form close relationships with the people they care about. Of course, this is what makes the job great! But, when patients die, it causes sadness and distress to the PSW.

Learning to deal with death is an important part of this career. You will find that personal support worker training includes classes such as caring for a dying patient, helping families with grief, and working with clients with cognitive and mental health conditions.

You will be prepared to meet these challenges - but that does not mean it is easy.

Pro: personal support worker training takes just 8 months

If you are looking for a new career and want to work in healthcare, personal support worker training is a great option. You won't find many short programs out there.

At Thompson Carrier College, for example, it takes just 8 months to complete your PSW diploma, including an 11-week internship. The program includes all the theories and hands-on training needed to secure positions in long-term care or home care companies.

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