Day in The Life of a Personal Support Worker: In a Nursing Home

The Personal Support Worker is a very rewarding career but at the same time is quite challenging as well.

If this is something you think is easy money then you’re in the wrong profession. Yes, the money is decent, but that should not be your number one reason for working in this field.

If it is, then frankly, it is a matter of concern.

Residents aren’t always easy to deal with. Neither are co-workers and resident’s families. You can’t lose your cool no matter how frustrating a day may seem. You will be required to be more than just a diaper changer.

You, as a Personal Support Worker, will also take on some of the following roles: Friend. Shoulder to cry on. Confidante. Pseudo grandchild.

Some of these people haven’t got anyone else in their life. Don’t let them down.

Now that I’ve scared you, let me break it down.

Here’s an account of the day of a PSW, by a PSW.


PSW job in a Nursing home

It’s early. It’s always early when you work the 0700-1500 (Side note: You must get used to the 24h time! 0700-1500 is 7am to 3pm) shift in a nursing home. Mornings are easily the busiest time of the day in any Long Term Care (LTC) facility.

Luckily I work with two other PSWs so with three of us on the floor, it’s usually manageable to get all 28 residents up for breakfast.

Do you like that ratio?

Roughly 28 residents for 3 PSWs works out to about 9 residents per PSW. Yes, this is the norm. I have it pretty easy, not all homes are like that.

To say we’re severely understaffed most of the time is the understatement of the year. But I digress.

The morning routine varies.

Remember: Just because yesterday went smoothly doesn’t mean today will. Every day is different. However, because I’ve been working with these individuals for the better part of 3 years, I have a pretty good idea as to how my morning will go.

Time management is extremely important. I cannot stress this enough. I have 9 residents and 2 hours to get everyone ready for breakfast.

Getting ready includes:

  • Taking a resident to the bathroom / changing in bed.
  • Helping a resident get dressed or dressing them yourself altogether.
  • Assisting with teeth brushing / denture cleaning.
  • Making beds, and
  • Anything else that may come up in the process.

Also take in to account that we are dealing with individuals who are not cognitively aware a lot of the time. To give you some perspective, trying to get someone up and ready for breakfast can be likened to that of attempting to get a 5 year old ready for school in the morning. Only on a much larger scale.


You made it to the dining room on time.


The morning routine isn’t always easy and more often than not something always comes up to mess up your time.

But the important thing is that everyone is in the dining room, dressed and ready to eat.

Breakfast consists of oatmeal, cold cereals, eggs and toast. It’s a very simple meal which most residents are content with. A lot of the people here thrive on routine, so it’s extremely normal to have one person have the exact same breakfast every day.

Some residents may require help with feeding themselves. Others may need help spreading jam and butter on their toast.

Remember, you are their eyes, ears and hands for the most part. If you think you’re going to just bring them in and leave you better leave yourself.

It’s also important to note that every residents has a specific diet that is extremely important to adhere to. You may have someone who is diabetic. There will also be individuals who require a different consistency than just a regular piece of toast. Other than “regular” someone’s breakfast may be minced or pureed. Different textures vary depending on someone’s ability to properly swallow or chew their food.

We don’t want someone to choke during a meal, now do we?

Are you tired yet?

After breakfast things usually start to calm down. This is when you may want to take a break, or give a resident a shower. Showers are normally done after breakfast as there is little to no time to properly do the task beforehand.

Showers aren’t always easy to give. It’s strange, but a lot of people with dementia show fear when it comes to bathing.

Sometimes I have to trick someone in order to get them into the shower room. It sounds awful, but when you are dealing with an illogical illness, you cannot deal with the situation in a logical manner.

Generally speaking, if on occasion a resident refuses a shower that’s fine but make sure you document the incident and inform your charge nurse.

There are some instances when a resident just needs to be cleaned. So you get it done. Sometimes it’ll take 2 of you to complete the task, especially if you are dealing with an aggressive resident.

During this time you also want to check on your residents as well, you know, to make sure no one’s fallen down or passed away. Hey, it happens. You’re in a nursing home now.

Most residents have a toileting schedule as well, so changing someone will generally occur during this time or after lunch. Again, it all depends on the resident and anything else happening that day.

Just remember, every day will be different.


PSW with senior couple in a Nursing homeIt’s lunch time!

The second and last meal that you will be a part of during your morning shift. I find lunch to be less stressful than breakfast because there aren’t as many options to choose from. There are 2 meals, and it’s either one or the other.

Again, you always have to take in to account your resident’s diet. Some people do not eat pork for instance due to religious reasons.

After meals I sometimes try to help the dietary staff with tidying the dirty dishes off the table but that all depends on time.

After lunch I have 2 hours left before the shift change.  You may want to take your lunch break now – highly recommended, you need the energy. Or you may need to toilet someone first.

Resident’s come first. Always.

Of course your health is just as important. Drinking lots of water and eating well will help you with the energy boost you’ll most likely be craving for.


You’re smiling. It’s been a hard, busy day but you made it through. It’s not easy, is it?

Sometimes you may be working 7 days straight. Sometimes you may be asked to work a double shift – that’s 16 hours! And other times you’ll have very little going on that you’ll work very hard to dare not think the word “bored” for fear of jinxing it all.

I’ve done it.

I’ve been doing this for 4 years and I plan on doing this for as long as I possibly can.

Towards the end of your shift is when all the documenting takes place. There are specific things that need to be kept track of.

As previously mentioned, you, the PSW, are the resident’s eyes, nose, ears, and any other sense that they may not be capable of using.

Bowel movements must be recorded, as well as urine output. Intake records are also kept regarding how much they may have drank during each meal and how little or a lot they’ve eaten. There is a lot to remember, as well as do physically.

This is a job that exercises your brain and your body.

Last but not least, before you leave, a report must be given to the oncoming staff. Anything that happened throughout the day – if a resident was behaving aggressively, if someone got sent to hospital, if someone fell ill – all of these details must be shared at the end of each shift.

This is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. Just because the clock runs out doesn’t mean the job ends. There will be times where sometimes you may have to stay 10 minutes past your shift, without pay.

Is it fair? Not always.

And this isn’t something that happens often, but if you’re in the middle of a task you don’t stop doing it just because the clock strikes 3.

You finish the job and you finish it right. With care. With concern.

And you know why? Because you love this job. You love your residents. You didn’t come into this expecting to make millions.

Resources you’ll need to become a Personal Support Worker

On this page, you can find anything there is to know about how to become a personal support worker, how to succeed as one, and how to continue your education. This is the place to come to and look for all the PSW resources and information that you may need on your journey as a Personal Support Worker.

PSW job interview questions

If you’re determined to pass your next PSW interview with flying colors, we’re here to help. PSWHQ have put together a thorough online guide with PSW interview questions and appropriate sample answers to these questions that hit the target, and are concise and supportive.

Performing well in the interview is just one part of many others needed to secure a PSW Job. First and foremost, you’ll need to have an impeccable résumé and cover letter in order to be called for an interview. 

Guide to finding PSW jobs

After you have decided to become a Personal Support Worker and completed the course you are now at a point to start looking for work. You need to explore all the important jobs listed under different job titles, which is why you should go through our ultimate guide to finding PSW jobs.

We also help you find PSW job postings from hospitals, long-term care homes, and community and private settings. 

Advertising with PSWHQ

Over the past few years, PSWHQ has achieved a dominant ranking in major search engines such as Google and Bing. As a result, we offer a limited number of advertising opportunities to individuals, colleges, companies, and organizations we see as a good fit for the unique audience of PSWHQ.


1. What do PSW do in a day?

PSWs provide personal care and support to most clients in their homes or in other community settings. They may help clients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming, or they may provide companionship and emotional support. PSWs may also perform light housekeeping or laundry duties.

2. What’s it like working as a personal support worker?

Personal support workers provide care and assistance to people who need help with activities of daily living. They may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes.

Working as a personal support worker can be both challenging and rewarding. It can be challenging because it can be physically and emotionally demanding, and rewarding because it can be satisfying to help someone else.

Personal support workers typically work long hours, often on rotating shifts.

3. How many personal support workers are there in Ontario?

There are an estimated 90,000 personal support workers in Ontario. This number is expected to grow as the population ages and more people require care.

4. How much do PSWs make in BC?

Based on 5 salaries, an early career Personal Support Worker (PSW) earns an average total compensation of C$18.31 (tips, bonus, and overtime pay).  

5. What is the difference between a carer and a support worker?

The main difference between a care giver and a support worker is that a care giver provides personal care to their clients, while a support worker provides practical and emotional support. A care giver is responsible for tasks such as bathing, dressing, and feeding their clients, while a support worker may help with these tasks, but also does things like laundry, grocery shopping, and taking their clients on outings.

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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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  1. What about when you have resident(s) that are requiring palliative / end of life care? All nine of my residents have a dementia and are total care even if some think they are independent (usually these ones are the hardest). Our residents are coming into the nursing homes more frail, further into their disease, or end of life. If you add this onto your day it gets even better. In our home we are very proud of our toilet routines. Every resident is placed on a routine allowing them to “empty” out normally on each shift (some are toileted several times a shift). This is for all residents, either wheelchair bound or not. So we bring out the lifts. This requires two staff members, so we have to find someone to help you with this. Yes it takes a staff member away from their nine residents.
    We entertain residents, help them to “find their mom” many times over, we get them out of others rooms before fights break out, we put back what they have taken from other rooms, we deal with family members that do not understand that their mom or dad is not the only person that we look after. We do help them to understand that we will look after their love one and that we will make sure they are well cared for.
    We are trained to do restorative care with our residents. Helping them to be as independent as possible.
    We attend in services or go on our own time to extra classes/courses helping us to better serve our residents.
    We volunteer to be on committees. We attend care conferences. When other psw’s have trouble, we are there to help them with their workload.
    We not only care for our residents, we care for the families and our co-workers.
    We advocate for our residents when they have no one to speak for them.
    We build strong trusting relationships with our residents.
    We create a home-like environment for our residents.
    We mentor new psw’s. We have a high standard of care and high expectations.
    Our role seems to overlap the role of our registered staff. If we all agree to work along side each other with respect, compassion, and commitment, we have the makings of a wonderful shift.
    We also try to do self care at the end of the day so we may come back and do it all over again.
    Yes this job is physically, and mentally exhausting, but rewarding.
    Our residents are family-like to us. I really can not think of another job I would rather do. I just hope my body will hold up.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Jackie.
      PSW’s truly are making a huge difference. They are the backbone of our healthcare system. Without them, I believe the healthcare system will become dysfunctional.
      And you are absolutely right about working together. Working as a team when dealing with a number of residents can make your life much easier. It makes working as a PSW so much fun.

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