How to Become a Personal Support Worker (PSW)

By Tess Campbell Modified on April 21, 2022
Tags : Academics | Careers | Health and Wellness

Are you a compassionate person who's looking to make a difference in peoples' lives? If so, becoming a personal support worker may be for you!

 How to Become a Personal Support Worker

Have you been searching for a career where you can make valuable connections? Are you a compassionate and caring individual who likes putting smiles on faces? Make a difference in the lives of people who need support. Become a personal support worker (PSW) today!

What is a Personal Support Worker?

A personal support worker (PSW) is someone in the healthcare industry who works in homes or healthcare facilities to provide patient care and support in daily living activities. You will be assisting people with a range of conditions and health care needs, such as physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, and other illnesses, and helping them lead an active and fulfilling lifestyle in their community.

Think this is the career for you? Find out how you can become a PSW sooner than you think!

Become a PSW in 3 simple steps

Start your career as a PSW in as little as 6 months!

Step one: Education

To become a PSW, you’ll need a college certificate in personal support work (or health care assistant in Western and Maritime provinces). These certificates typically take 8-12 months to complete, but colleges in Ontario have introduced an accelerated PSW training program that only lasts 6 months! So, if you begin your program in September, you could be career-ready by March. These programs will provide you with field placements so you can get the experience you need to succeed.

Step two: Additional certifications and documentation

Most programs will require you to provide specific certifications and documentation so you can participate in the field placement portion of the program. Working in healthcare requires you to be as prepared and safe as possible. These programs may require that you obtain CPR certification, first aid certification, and a police check before the program begins. You may also have to provide documentation for your completed immunizations. Make sure you check each program’s prerequisites as the level of certifications may vary, and they may ask for additional requirements.

Step three: Field placement

You don’t have to worry about going out on your own to find internships after your education. Your certificate program will include a field placement as part of your studies. You will have direct experience working in a healthcare setting before you graduate, gaining necessary skills and experience that will be useful in securing a job later.

Typical responsibilities of a PSW

Want to know what type of tasks you’ll do as a PSW? Check out some common responsibilities in this role:

  • Following a patient’s plan of care under the supervision of a registered nurse
  • Performing personal care tasks, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, toileting, moving, and other daily care tasks
  • Observing patient’s cognitive state and physical condition to report any changes to their condition
  • Perform light housekeeping duties, such as sweeping, vacuuming, laundry, etc., in home settings
  • Complete and maintain records like communication books and progress notes
  • Helping clients with leisure activities
  • Other tasks related to improving and maintaining patient care and wellbeing

Pros and cons of a PSW career

Like any career, there are good and difficult factors. Learn what you could experience to best prepare yourself.


Discover what makes this career great:

  • Job security: as the general population gets older, PSWs will be needed more and more. Find out which provinces may have the best job prospects.
  • Diversity of work settings: you could work in hospitals, long-term care homes, healthcare facilities, private settings, and community centres.
  • Rewarding: you’ll be making a difference in the lives of those who need it. You’ll go into work every day knowing that you were able to help others. That’s a pretty big positive!
  • Flexible schedules: although this career is one that is 24/7, 365 days a year, you still have flexibility in your schedules. You can choose shifts that work best for you. Don’t want a 9-5 lifestyle? No problem! You can choose shifts earlier in the day, later at night, or weekends.


Find out what difficulties you may experience:

  • Losing patients: like all healthcare careers, there is a possibility you may lose a patient and experience grief. You’ll be working closely with individuals, and when you lose someone, it can be emotionally challenging.
  • Shift work: although this career is flexible, shift schedules can be difficult. You may work irregular hours or experience last-minute calls, especially if you haven’t gained seniority with your company yet.
  • Staff shortages: there is a shortage of PSWs, especially in Ontario. This shortage means you may have a heavier workload than normal, which can often look like caring for too many patients per shift.
  • Difficult patients: since you are working with individuals who require care, they may get upset or be uncooperative at times due to internal struggles and lash out (verbally or physically) at those closest to them.

Program bridge to practical nursing

If you find that being a PSW is not for you and you’d like something a bit different, then you may like practical nursing (PN). A practical nurse provides basic nursing and medical care. You’ll focus more on evaluating patient care, taking vital signs and recording them in patient charts, changing wound dressings, preparing patients for surgical procedures and educating them on surgical aftercare, and much more. So, if you enjoyed the more medical side of being a PSW, then this may be the option for you!

Luckily, the transition from a PSW to PN is relatively simple! Many colleges have created a Personal Support Worker to Practical Nurse Bridge program. This is a pathway program for students who have a certificate in PSW and want to move into practical nursing. These programs will build off the knowledge and skills you obtained in your PSW certificate and provide a foundation for your career as a practical nurse.

So, with all this in mind, are you ready to begin your journey as a personal support worker?

Find your PSW program

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