Personal Support Workers (PSWs) Rock and Rule

Anyone who’s needed practical help with daily living when in a health situation knows that it’s not the doctor or nurse you turn to or rely on. Whether at home, or in a health facility, the day to day care delivery falls to the Personal Support Worker.

In a workshop organized by the Ontario Long Term Care Association focusing on Palliaitve Care in Long Term Care – with the theme: Care for Life, I sat amongst a packed room-full of (mostly) women PSWs.  Their satisfaction comes not from having the latest medical intervention, or cutting edge equipment but rather from spending more time with their ‘residents’ than any other healthcare professional – which means knowing the small pains and pleasures better than anyone – often more than family members. I tweeted to the world: 

Eyes and ears

Day-to-day efforts may seem thankless work but for the PSW this goes with job satisfaction:



In Palliative care – with its emphasis on whole person comfort and whole person symptom management – these PSWs have learned to read their residents non-verbal language: often a factor in those with Dementia.

PSWs form such lasting relationships with residents and their families that they often attend the funeral and keep in touch after a residents’ death.I wonder, with so many who are in their care at life’s end, how do they cope with deaths – do they call upon social workers, chaplains or bereavement counselors? The resounding answer is:

“We get comfort from our colleagues – fellow PSWs: only another PSW can understand the relationship and loss.

I was shocked to learn the reaction of other healthcare professions to the PSWs relationships:


Dr Mary Lou Kelly, Social Worker and researcher at Center for Education and Research on Aging and Health
presented the Palliative Care Alliance toolkit  from the Quality Palliative Care in Long Term Care Initiative. Toolsare as practical as PSWs themselves. From the room’s reaction, PSWs are aready doing many of tasks discussed, although the workshop was much-needed validation.  In their day to day work, recognition is in short supply. When asked, does staff know what PSW’s do:


Staff dont know

Hopefully that will change, as we likely all need the care, comfort and time spent by Personal Support Worker who are already employing a Palliative Approach to their resident’s care. Kudos to the Ontario Long Term Care Association and researchers like Mary Lou Kelly and fellow presenters, who recognize their crucial role. At the end of the day, the rousing cry:

PSW leading pall

Click here to read all the tweets from the workshop.

 If you liked this, suggest :

Doing ‘nothing’ not an option in Palliative Care

Personal Support Worker, Caring at Life’s End