Personal Support Worker (PSW) Program Outline & Career Information

Personal Support Worker career program was developed as part of the Ontario government’s plan. It support services provided for long-term care facilities or people living at home in the community. Personal Support Workers assist with the tasks of daily living. Moreover, services are provided in homes and apartments in the community, long-term facilities, congregate settings and day programs. And, Personal Support Workers must develop a broad range of abilities beyond dexterity skills. These skills provide the comfort, safety and well-being of their clients. Furthermore, the Personal Support Worker demonstrates sensitivity and respect for those in their care. Most importantly, the attitude, abilities and approach of the worker are critical to the well-being and health of the people they support.

Program Outline

Theory Length – 390 hours

Clinical Placement (Long-Term Care Facility) – 200 hours

Clinical Placement (Community) – 110 hours

Total Length – 700 hours – 30 weeks

Personal Support Worker Overview

Basic nursing, social service training, and supportive care for ongoing conditions and/or cognitive impairments. In addition, assisting with medications and caring for palliative care with patients. PSWs report to Directors of Nursing, Directors of Care, Client Service Coordinators, Charge Nurses, Case Managers and other designated team leaders. Places of employment include community health care agencies, long-term health care facilities, retirement homes, hospitals, day programs, private duty, hospice and group homes.

Attributes: Dependable, cheerful, empathetic, trustworthy, honest, self-motivated, and inspirational. In addition, conscientious, polite, respectful, culturally diversified, tolerant, patient, reliable, and punctual.

Scope of  Responsibilities

  • Co-operates with all members of the health team
  • Promotes safety and works in a safe manner
  • Assists with ambulating, mobilization, proper positioning and maintains body alignment as required
  • Aids with mechanical and physical lifts and/or transfers
  • Changes bed linens, towels and performs laundry related tasks
  • Supports with personal hygiene
  • Assists with meal preparation, grocery shopping, feeding, dietary planning, food handling and reporting fluid intake and output. Answers call bells
  • Takes and records blood pressure, temperature, pulse, body weight and height
  • Teaches life skills – safety, supportive devices, personal care, ambulation, mobility
  • Collects urine, sputum, stool specimens and assists the care-receiver with monitoring blood glucose levels
  • Assists with range of motion exercises and other rehabilitative measures
  • Practices universal precautions and maintains a clean working environment
  • Provides emotional and social support services to care-receivers and their families
  • Works as a supportive care worker for palliative care and hospice patients
  • Observes and reports clinical and treatment findings, behavioral changes, and changes in ongoing conditions
  • Maintains records – documents procedures

PSW Foundations

Students learn the principles of client-centered vs client-directed care. Emphasising on the individuality of the client and thier relationship with family and friends. In addition, the module introduces the concept of individuality of all persons, their experiences, rights, interests, beliefs, and needs. Furthermore, students learn the role and scope of responsibilities. This includes the variety of settings, work relationships, stress and time management, and applicable legislation. Lastly, consequences of exceeding the scope of the PSW role are covered, which introduces students to interpersonal skills and communications, including conflict resolution and problem-solving.

Safety and Mobility

Safety and mobility deals with aspects of safety as they relate to both the consumer/client and the worker. The PSW provides assistance in an effectively safe manner while providing comfort towards the client. As a result, the PSW must be aware of potential risks posed by unsafe equipment or settings. Furthermore, they must takee appropriate actions if unsafe situations are identified. In addition, infection control methods are taught as infections can cause distress for both the consumer/client and the worker. This module also discusses body mechanics, consistency in transferring, lifting techniques and the use of equipment. Overall, this helps increase safety and reduces client anxiety, confusion and dependency. Lastly, students learn the importance of proper positioning in a bed or a chair for the comfort and safety of the client.

Body Systems

The body systems module introduces the student to the basics of anatomy and physiology. Students gain an understanding of human body systems and apply that knowledge in their work as a Personal Support Worker. These body systems are the musculoskeletal, digestive, urinary, integumentary, reproductive, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and endocrine. Common disorders and age-related changes each body system is also covered.

Personal Hygiene

This module considers caring for the ill, disabled, injured and/or a confused client. PSWs gain the knowledge, skill, and sensitivity to provide appropriate assistance to another person. It is common that a significant number of their clients have disabilities that affect their ability to look after their own personal hygiene. Thus, the PSW assists clients with tasks that include bathing, grooming, mobility considerations, toileting, and skincare. In addition, frailness, dignity and levels of dependence are considered. Knowledge about the structure, function, aging changes and common conditions of the skin is reinforced in this module.


Family violence (child, spousal and elderly abuse) is a significant aspect of current society. As well, research indicates an increased awareness among support workers of abusive behavior towards clients. This module introduces students to the concepts of family violence and abuse, including its possible signs and appropriate actions to be taken (legal requirements) if abuse is suspected. Personal Support Workers identify the concept of abuse and are able to recognize both causes and indicators. They are able to identify the requirements of legislation and to respond in accordance with legislation, employer policy, and provisions of the service contract or support plan. And, recognize that the PSW may also be the focus of abuse.

Care Planning/Restorative Care/Documentation/Working in the Community

This module builds on the materials presented in the introductory module PSW Foundations. It identifies the support to be provided and the significance of the support (and of the need for the support) to the client. Optimal support refers to the ability to provide sufficient support to assist clients to do what they wish without inhibiting them. Furthermore, the care plan or service contract is the framework within which the worker provides support to the client. The worker must know the purpose of planning, the ways in which planning is done and the persons who are involved.

PSWs learn about implementing parts of the care plan and communicating information accurately and without judgment, as member of the support team. These activities are conducted in accordance with employer guidelines (agency or client). In addition, students are further introduced to working in the community health care environment, providing support to patients and families in communities, including Individual Homes and Retirement Homes, Long Term Care Facilities Acute Care Settings and Acquired Brain Injury Programs.

Family, Growth and Development

Students build and understand family characteristics in terms of structure, functions, roles, lifestyles and relationships. Moreover, the influence of cultural values, practices, religious beliefs, and the effects of illness, stress, and disability on family relationships are emphasized. Also, the module explores the role of the PSW in providing respite to and assisting families and their children, including those with special needs. Furthermore, oberserved commonly occurring conditions related to family functioning and life cycle events are included. The stages of growth and development throughout the life cycle are also discussed.

Dying Person

Here students discuss the concept of dying as a part of life an the possible impact of life-threatening illness on the person and their family. Furthermore, students examine personal beliefs about life-threatening illness, dying and the provision of support to the dying person, their family and friends. Assisting the dying person to maintain a lifestyle and respecting their right to make decisions with regards to support are further discussed. In addition, specific approaches within the scope of the support worker to reduce discomfort or pain (within the context of a plan of support/care) are covered. Care of the person at the time of death, care of the body after death, as well as any procedures that must be followed are discussed.


The PSWs ability to assist a client with medication is essential in supporting client independence. Students gain basic knowledge of the drugs used in the treatment of common diseases and disorders including drug classification, therapeutic effects, and general side/adverse effects. In addition, brand/generic names, dosage forms, routes of administration, and directions for use of these medications. Furthermore, students identify purposes of medication, required instruction/information about medications to be administered, and cautions with regard to medications. And, students develop and demonstrate skill in reading and interpreting information on prescription containers and demonstrate assistance with oral/topical medications, as well as, eye ear and nose drops. Overall, it is understood that this assistance is provided on a basis of case-by-case instruction by the appropriate person and cannot be generalize among clients or between support workers.

Cognitive Impairment & Mental Health Issues

Personal Support Workers recognize that behaviors or changes in behavior can be related to illness or other conditions, such as cognitive impairment, substance abuse or mental illness. Thus, they use approaches and techniques to assist clients with these changes or conditions in keeping with the care/support plan and report observations to the appropriate team member. Furthemore, they help identify factors that can increase the risk of suicide and recognize signs of possible suicidal behavior. In general, this module introduces students to common psychiatric conditions (affective disorders and schizophrenia), substance abuse, cognitive impairment, and brain injuries. Furthermore, the possibility of multiple conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression will be discussed. In addition, the role of the family caregiver, as well as, the importance of observation, documentation and reporting will be reviewed.

Health Conditions

This module introduces students to basic concepts of assistance, as well as, the general effects on the person of common disabilities, ongoing conditions and diseases. Although PSWs are not expected to make functional assessments, they do require an understanding of the effects of disability, disease or condition on functioning in order to provide appropriate assistance. As partners in a support or care team (along with the client and others), PSWs need to understand why, what, when and how maintenance, rehabilitation and restorative care are used to benefit the client. Furthermore, they will likely assist the client in a variety of activities and must be able to interpret and carry out the instructions of clients and professionals involved so the client receives the maximum benefit from their assistance. Lastly, concepts of maintenance, rehabilitation and restoration are discussed, as is the importance of the support team in providing assistance.

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