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Personal Support Worker Program Outline

(Please note that programs may be changed or upgraded to meet the demands of industry without notice)

Core Personal Support Worker Clinical Skills:

PSW Foundations  

The work of the Personal Support Worker and the Personal Attendant is based upon the individuality of the client and their relationship with family, friends and others.  Central to the PSW’s work is the importance of the client’s involvement in directing the assistance required, to the extent that the person wishes and is able to do so.  

Students will be introduced to the role and scope of practice of workers providing support to clients and families in individual homes and long-term care facilities.  The variety of settings, work relationships, level of supervision, the need to adapt to varying settings as well as, time and stress management will be covered.  Legislation related to the worker, the work setting and client rights will be discussed.  

Understanding the messages of others, expressing oneself so as to be understood by others and using these skills to develop and enhance a positive/supportive relationship is central to the Personal Support Worker’s ability to function. The importance of communication and interpersonal skills essential to establishing and maintaining effective relationships with clients is stressed.

Safety and Mobility

This module deals with aspects of safety as they relate to both the client and the worker.  One of the fundamental activities of the Personal Support Worker is assisting the client with routine activities of living.  

It is essential that the PSW provide assistance in a manner which is effective, safe and provides for the client’s 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 client and the worker.

The Personal Support Worker practices good body mechanics in many aspects of the work they perform to ensure their safety and comfort and the safety and comfort of the client.  It is recognized that workers in this field are at risk for developing back injuries from improper use of body mechanics.  Consistency in transferring, lifting techniques and the use of equipment increases safety and reduces client anxiety, confusion and dependency.

Body Systems

Abuse and Neglect

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 toward 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 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 PSW’s may also be the focus of abuse.

Household Management, Nutrition and Hydration

In this module students will learn to assist the client with their nutritional needs, household activities and household management according to client preferences, comfort and safety, within employer guidelines as required.  Nutritional needs include planning balanced nutritious menus, preparing shopping lists, shopping, and the safe handling of food, storage and specific cooking techniques.  Special dietary needs of infants, pregnant and nursing mothers, persons with specific conditions (diabetes, feeding tubes, etc.) as well as persons with specific cultural and religious preferences will be addressed.

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

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 support to assist clients to do what they wish without inhibiting them.  The support/care plan or service contract is the framework within which the worker provides support to the client.  The PSW must know the purpose of planning, the ways in which planning is done and the persons (client, support workers, 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 employers (agency or client).

Assisting with Personal Hygiene  

The PSW is required to have knowledge, skill and sensitivity to provide appropriate assistance to another person, since a significant number of clients for whom the PSW provides service have disabilities which affect their ability to look after their personal hygiene.  Sufficient knowledge about the structure, function, aging changes and common conditions of the skin is covered in this module to enable the PSW to understand why specific personal hygiene methods are recommended.  The necessity of a positive attitude and sound interpersonal skills when working with clients experiencing a disability is discussed.  The importance of supporting the client’s control over their own personal hygiene to the extent possible/desired is also covered, as is the need to respect the client’s right to make choices as to how they wish assistance to be given.  

Assisting the Family, Growth and Development  

This module assists students to understand the characteristics of today’s families in terms of structure, functions, roles, lifestyles and relationships.  An understanding of 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 PSW’s ability to provide effective support.  This module also explores the PSW’s role in providing respite to and assisting families/significant others 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 the PSW’s awareness of and sensitivity to family reactions to the worker’s presence, family routines, preferences and involvement in decision making.  Assisting the family/significant others 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.

Cognitive and Mental Health Issues and Brain Injuries

Personal Support Workers recognize that behaviours or changes in behaviour can be related to illness or other conditions, such as cognitive impairment, substance abuse or mental illness.  They identify factors which can increase the risk of suicide and recognize signs of possible suicidal behaviour.  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.  This module will introduce the student to common psychiatric conditions (affective disorders and schizophrenia), substance abuse and cognitive impairment.  The possibility of multiple conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and depression will be discussed.

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.  PSW’s will 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 -, they 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 their assistance.

Assisting with Medications  

The PSW’s ability to assist a client with medication may be essential in supporting the client’s independence, or in supporting a family caregiver to attend to tasks or take needed respite.  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 desired and undesired outcomes will be described. Finally, procedures to be followed in the event of concern about or problems with medications will be discussed.

Assisting the Dying Person

This module allows students to discuss the concept of dying as a part of life and the possible impact of life-threatening illness on the person and their family.  They will also have the opportunity to examine personal beliefs about life-threatening illness, dying and the provision of support to the dying person, his/her family and friends.  Assisting the dying person to maintain a desired lifestyle and respecting his/her right to make decisions with regard to support is also discussed.  Specific approaches within the scope of the support worker to reduce discomfort or pain (within the context of a plan of support or care) are covered.  Care of the person at the time of death, care of the body after death, as well as any procedures which must be followed are discussed.   

Mandatory Clinical Placement 

The student must complete 310 hours of clinical training to graduate and receive their diploma.  The students will have hands on experience, using their knowledge from the theory and skills learned in the classroom.  A clinical instructor will be with the students for 200 hours of supervised clinical placement in both a long term care facility and a community facility.  Students must then complete 110 hours of unsupervised clinical placement in both a long term care facility and community facility.

Workplace Skills

Student Success Strategies

Emphasis is placed on thinking about success from day one and developing the non-technical skills to enhance personal, academic and career success. Topics include: goal setting, time management, learning styles, memory techniques, note taking and test writing techniques.

Computer Essentials

Introduction to computer operations: operating system basics, disk structures, information sharing and customization, keyboarding, windows graphical user interface, basic use of the internet, introduction to word processing (MS Word), spreadsheets (MS Excel). 

Career and Employment Strategies     

This module takes the students through the entire job search process including:

  • Where and how to look for a job
  • Effective resume preparation
  • Creating a cover letter tailored to the position
  • Interview preparation
  • Job search management
  • Self-confidence and self-esteem building
  • Mock interviews 
  • Follow up after the interview