Personal Support Workers and the Interdisciplinary Healthcare Team

Personal Support Workers (PSW’s) are an integral part of the health care team.

Situated in a variety of settings ranging from hospice to in-home care, PSWs work closely with clients to help with daily activities. They have an intimate understanding of a client’s day-to-day needs and as such, PSWs are a vital part of the health care team.

Other Members of the Health Care Team
Provision of health care is optimized through the collaboration of a wide variety of specialists from both regulated and unregulated professions. These can include some or all of the following:

Physician – a licensed professional charged with managing the client’s overall health and who organizes required adjustments in care provision.

Nurse – a licensed professional who acts as the main administrator of skilled medical care such as medications, wound care and monitoring of vital signs.

Care manager – an administrative professional who coordinates resources required to provide care such as client-appropriate aide programs and assisting with applications for such.

Pharmacist – a licensed professional who provides prescribed medications thereby helping to ensure that prescriptions are appropriate.

Activity director – a specialist in keeping people of all abilities fit and active through individualized activities that are emotionally and physically rewarding.

Physiotherapist – a specialist who focuses on maintaining and improving mobility through both preventive and therapeutic measures.

Occupational Therapist – a specialist who helps train and retrain clients on the essential Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as self-feeding, grooming and dressing.

Respiratory therapist – a specialist who monitors and treats respiratory difficulties and provides services including temporary relief from symptoms due to chronic disease and long-term respiratory support.

Dietician – a specialist in ensuring specific dietary needs are met throughout any changes in client preference or medical status.

Social worker – a professional who monitors and acts to enhance the complete spectrum of factors that can impact client health such as environmental, financial and emotional needs.

Spiritual adviser – any person, either religiously affiliated or non-denominational, who acts to specifically address the spiritual needs of a client.

What role does PSW’s play as part of the Interdisciplinary Team

Interdisciplinary healthcare teamPSWs utilize communication skills in order to maintain contact and collaborate with other members of the team.

These working relationships depend on mutual trust, patience and respect that evolve with time and experience within the team. This is further fostered by demonstrating enthusiasm for client care, a deep interest in understanding and dedication in carrying out required tasks.

Successful execution of basic problem-solving skills when faced with a new situation helps both the client and the health care team to gain deeper trust in the PSW’s capacity to fulfill client needs.

Similarly, being able to recognize one’s current limitations, such as tasks that are too complex or require more time, is essential.

In such cases, PSWs are encouraged to request support from a supervisor. Seeking out information and guidance are understood as crucial for the development of not only the PSW as an individual but also as a contributor to the health care team.

Information must flow bi-directionally between the PSW and health care team. Any changes affecting a client including routine activities and health status must be recognized and reported by the PSW.

Feedback from the team may come in the form of changes to care plans or constructive critiques on the PSWs performance. These must all be successfully integrated into PSW’s functions for both professional development and proper client care.

Personal Support Worker Training
Becoming a trained PSW depends on the development of certain essential skills.

These include being able to accurately and promptly follow directions given both orally and in writing. PSW’s must be able to follow stated guidelines in delivering client care and document their activities by completing checklists.

PSW training helps develop the capacity to maintain a work environment that respects the decision-making capacity and independence of clients in a manner that is clean, orderly and safe.

An additional crucial element of PSW training is developing recognition of and respect for the cultural, religious, and spiritual beliefs of clients and their families. Personal Support Worker training continues through the professional experience gained from interaction with clients and the health care team.

Personal Support Workers: Indispensable Assets
No long term care health team is complete without personal support workers. Through their hands-on role, PSWs contribute to this interdisciplinary team in large part through their knowledge of day-to-day nuances of the client as an individual.

In turn, PSWs are entrusted to integrate requirements and input from the team in order to continuously deliver the highest level of individualized patient care.

Image credit: Used under a Creative Commons Attribution from codnewsroom on Flickr.

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Avlin is passionate about helping aspirants become better personal support workers. He is an entrepreneur and runs a clinic in Toronto.

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