/Personal Support Worker NACC Program Outline
Personal Support Worker NACC Program Outline 2017-09-14T11:44:47+00:00

PSW Program Outline & Career Information

The Personal Support Worker program was developed as part of the Ontario government’s plan to reform long-term care and support services which are provided to people in long-term care facilities or living at home in the community.

Personal Support Workers assist with the tasks of daily living. Services are provided in homes and apartments in the community, in long-term facilities, congregate settings and day programs. Personal Support Workers must develop a broad range of abilities beyond dexterity skills. They must provide not only for the comfort, safety and well-being of their clients, but also demonstrate sensitivity and respect for those in their care. The attitude, abilities and approach of the worker are critical to the well-being and health of the people they support.

The Personal Support Worker program replaces (and consolidates) the Health Care Aide and Home Support Worker (Levels I, II & III) training. This program standardizes training and provides a solid educational base for workers who provide long-term care and support services in both institutional and community settings.

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

Job Overview – The Personal Support Worker is trained for employment in a number of human health sectors. PSWs have theory and clinical training in community and long-term health care facilities and are in demand for community and facility placements.

The PSW has a skill and knowledge level that includes: basic nursing, social service training, supportive care for ongoing conditions and/or cognitive impairments, assisting with medications and caring for palliative care patients. PSWs report to Directors of Nursing, Directors of Care, Client Service Coordinators, Charge Nurses, Case Managers and other designated team leaders.

Attributes: dependable, cheerful, empathetic, trustworthy, honest, self-motivated, inspirational, conscientious, polite, respectful, culturally diversified, tolerant, patient, reliable, punctual

Places of Employment: community health care agencies, long-term health care facilities, retirement homes, hospitals, day programs, private duty, hospice and group homes.


  • 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
  • Assists with mechanical and physical lifts and/or transfers
  • Changes bed linens, towels and performs laundry related tasks
  • Assists with personal hygiene: bathing, skin care, dressing, toileting, changing incontinent pads, hair grooming, nail and foot care (as directed), tooth brushing, denture care, flossing and rinsing.
  • 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, behavioural changes, and changes in ongoing conditions
  • Maintains records – documents procedures

PSW Foundations

This module provides an overview of the PSW role in a variety of setting. Students will learn the principles of client-centred versus client-directed care, emphasizing the individuality of the client and his/her relationship with family and friends. The modules introduces the concept of individuality of all persons, their experiences, rights, interests, beliefs and needs. Students will be introduced to the role and scope of responsibilities of PSW’s, including the variety of settings, work relationships, stress and time management, and applicable legislation. Consequences of exceeding the scope of the PSW role will also be covered. This module will also introduce students to interpersonal skills and communications, including conflict resolution and problem solving.

Safety and Mobility

This module deals with aspects of safety as they relate to both the consumer/client and the worker. One of the fundamental activities of the PSW is assisting the consumer/client with routine activities of living. It is essential that the PSW provide assistance in a manner that is effective, safe and provides for client comfort. As part of this, the PSW must be aware of potential risks posed by unsafe equipment or settings and the appropriate actions to take if unsafe situations are identified. Infection control methods will be taught as infections can cause distress for both the consumer/client and the worker. This module will also discuss body mechanics as well as consistency in transferring, lifting techniques and the use of equipment to increase safety and reduce client anxiety, confusion and dependency. Students will also learn the importance of proper positioning in a bed or a chair for the comfort and safety of the client.

Body Systems

This module will introduce the student to the basics of anatomy and physiology. Students will gain an understanding of human body systems in order to apply that knowledge in their daily 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 will also be covered.

Assisting a Person with Personal Hygiene

PSWs must have the knowledge, skill and sensitivity to provide appropriate assistance to another person, since a significant number of clients for whom they provide service have disabilities that affect their ability to look after their personal hygiene. The Personal Support Worker will assist clients with all activities or routines of daily living. These tasks include bathing, grooming, mobility considerations, toileting and skin care. This module will consider caring for the ill, disabled, injured and/or a confused client. Frailness, dignity and levels of dependence will be considered. Personal hygiene involves personal safety, self-esteem and dignity consideration. Knowledge about the structure, function, ageing changes and common conditions of the skin is reinforced in this module. Personal care measures around the clock will be considered. A focus on humanistic health care will build the foundation of this module. Oral care, perineal care, infection control, bathing techniques, grooming, dressing, bed making, shaving, hair care, skin care and much more will be covered in this unit.


Family violence (incorporating child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse) is a significant aspect of current society. As well, research indicates an increased awareness among support workers of abusive behaviour towards clients. This module introduces students to the concepts of family violence and abuse, including its possible signs, as well as appropriate actions to be taken (including legal requirements) if abuse is suspected. Personal beliefs and attitudes about family violence and abuse are examined, as is the concept of worker abuse of the client. Finally, abuse of the worker is discussed. 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. They recognize that the PSW may also be the focus of abuse.

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

Support of various types is the main function of the PSW. Yet, support is more than providing help – it relies on a number of factors, not the least of which are skill and sensitivity. Optimal support refers to the ability to provide sufficient support to assist clients to do what they wish without inhibiting them. 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. Supporting the client to relearn/regain routine abilities and issues of the rights of the client as a receiver of support will be presented. 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 (client, support workers, care givers and professionals) who are involved. PSWs will 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). Students will also be 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.

Assisting the Family, Growth and Development

This module builds a foundation for students to understand family characteristics in terms of structure, functions, roles, lifestyles and relationships. The influence of cultural values, practices, religious beliefs as well as the effects of illness, stress, disability on family relationships will be emphasized as central to the PSWs ability to provide effective support. This module also explores the role of the PSW in providing respite to and assisting families and their children, including those with special needs. Observation of selected commonly occurring conditions related to family functioning and life cycle events are included. A central focus is on the need for awareness of and sensitivity to family reactions to the presence of the PSW, family routines, preferences and involvement in decision-making. Assisting the family with specific practical approaches in balancing care giving and rest, skills related to infant and child care as well as assisting a child with special needs are addressed. The stages of growth and development throughout the life cycle are also discussed.

Assisting the Dying Person

In this module 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. Students will also 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 regard to support are also discussed. 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.

Assisting with Medications

The PSWs ability to assist a client with medication is essential in supporting client independence or in supporting a family caregiver to attend to tasks needed respite. Students gain basic knowledge of the drugs used in treatment of common diseases and disorders including drug classification, use therapeutic effects, side/adverse effects, brand/generic names, dosage forms, routes of administration, and directions for use of these medications. Students will identify purposes of medication, required instruction/information about medications to be administered, and cautions with regard to medications. Students will 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. The importance of observation for both desire and undesired outcomes and procedures to be followed in the event of concern about or problems with medications will be discussed. PSWs are able to provide specific assistance with medications (oral, topical, eye, nose or ear drops) to the client, in keeping with the directions stated in the client care/support plan, and under the direction and monitoring of an appropriate person (health professional, caregiver or family member) 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. 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. They also identify factors that can increase the risk of suicide and recognize signs of possible suicidal behaviour. This module introduces students to common psychiatric conditions (affective disorders and schizophrenia), substance abuse, cognitive impairment, and brain injuries. The possibility of multiple conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression will be discussed. The role of the family caregiver as well as the importance of observation, documentation and reporting will be reviewed.

Health Conditions

As the result of an ongoing condition, many clients will require the assistance of another person in order to accomplish routine activities of living. 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. 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 with the client so the client receives the maximum benefit from t heir assistance. 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. Focusing on the importance of providing support safely, effectively and comfortably, students will gain skill in necessary techniques. Concepts of maintenance, rehabilitation and restoration are discussed, as is the importance of the support team in providing assistance. Activities that require additional training who is responsible for providing the training and transferability of these additional skills, will be discussed.

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