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Personal Support Worker Education Program Keira Grant



Keira Grant

Master of Science

Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation

Dalla Lana School of Public Health

University of Toronto



Problem Statement: Despite increased reliance on PSW certificate programs to standardize the

workforce, and the introduction of a common training standard in 2015, there is limited research

available on PSW certificate programs. This study adds to knowledge regarding PSW

certificates, which can be applied to decisions regarding the future direction of PSW education.

Methods: This is an intrinsic case study of PSW certificate programs in Ontario. The research

methods were document analysis, and key informant interviews.

Results: Informants perceived a PSW certificate as necessary to adequate performance of the

PSW role. Informants perceived challenges in the areas of interprofessional teamwork,

assessments, helping-relationships, client-centred care, medications, and abuse.

Conclusions: The role of the PSW has changed significantly over the last decade, and it is now

commonplace for PSWs to be assigned nursing tasks. Further research should evaluate whether

the new standard is being successfully implemented, and meeting sector needs.

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Personal Support Worker Education Program Keira Grant


care plan. The text also notes that in the community setting, the PSW may be the only member of

the care team who sees the client regularly for long periods of time; thus it is of the utmost

importance that they are able to identify relevant information regarding the client’s status and

report this appropriately in a timely fashion. In support of PSW knowledge requirements with

regards to making, documenting and recording observations, the text contains chapters on:

Medical terminology (Chapter 7), measuring height, weight, and vital signs (Chapter 41), and the

client care planning process, including verbal reporting and charting (Chapter 8).

5.6.3 The Programs

There are no references to assessments in the program data, other than in passing to describe the

activities of regulated health professionals. There are repeated references to the expectation that

PSWs have the ability to identify relevant observations about the client and report and document

these appropriately.

One CAAT program offers a course specific to this topic. It describes the course on observation


“This course introduces students to a variety of aspects of care to be considered when

caring for clients, both in the clinical facility and in the community. This includes

effective and safe care; knowledge of current concepts of health and wellness, as

achieved in all stages of life; identification of common reactions to illness and disability;

and concepts relating to promotion of client well-being. As well, students are introduced

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 potential abuse of the worker are

discussed. Utilizing medical terminology, the PSW observes, reports and records findings

as an integral part of care. As such, this course describes common methods of interpreting

information gathered and communicating this to the appropriate interprofessional team

members” (George Brown College).

The final sentence of the description unites the ability to interpret the information with being

able to communicate it appropriately.

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Personal Support Worker Education Program Keira Grant


The NACC and School board programs offer a module entitled “Providing Optimal Support and

Care Planning”. This module introduce students to the concept of the care plan and its

implementation. The most in-depth description, portions of which were excerpted by the other

programs, is:

“Support of various types is the main function of the PSW. The word “support” appears

in the program title. 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 materials presented in the introductory module “Interpersonal

Skills”. 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 re-learn/regain routine

abilities and issues of the rights of the client as a receiver of support will be presented.

The support/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 worker, caregivers, and

professionals) who are involved. PSW’s will learn about implementing parts of the plan

and communicating information accurately and without judgment, as members of the

support team. These activities are conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the

employer (agency or client)” (St. Albert Adult Learning Centre).

All of the programs refer to the expectations regarding observation, documentation, and

reporting in the context of a number of courses. Courses on communication, medication

administration, and care for the cognitively impaired or those with dementia appeared to contain

the most substantive discussion of these topics. Most programs also note that one of the

objectives of the practicum component is to become proficient at making and reporting

observations. The references to observations in the course descriptions or program overviews

centralize the importance of recognizing change in the client’s condition on any level. As one

program outline puts it, a graduate “is able to recognize, report and document changes in the

client’s physical, emotional, social, spiritual and mental needs.”

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