What is a Personal Support Worker?

A Personal Support Worker (PSW) is the front line health care professional in Ontario, who provides direct care to the elderly or ill patients in a wide variety of settings.

This is a commonly used generic title however; there are many other titles that are also used for someone performing similar duties and those titles are:

  • Health Care Aide
  • Personal Attendant
  • Visiting Homemaker
  • Respite Care Worker
  • Home Support Worker
  • Palliative Care Worker
  • Supportive Care Assistant
  • Patient Services Associate

Personal Support Worker is not part of the Regulated Health Professions Act and is therefore a non-regulated profession.

An attempt on regulation was made by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in 2005 however, Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC) recommended not to regulate this profession due to the complex nature of work carried out and a wide range of settings where they work.

Hence, they are also categorized as Unregulated Care Providers (UCP’s).


Their role is constrained in terms of independent actions and is primarily limited to providing support.

To get a general idea:

“PSW do for a person the things that the person would do for herself, if he/she were physically and/or cognitively able.”

Due to the lack of a governing body, there are lots of grey areas when it comes to defining the roles associated with a PSW.

There is no standard scope of practice.

Duties assigned and permitted scope of practice depends upon the employer, work setting and client needs.

Some of the roles and duties typically associated with a Personal Support Worker are:

  • Providing assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) such as dressing, grooming, personal hygiene,    elimination, mobility (positioning and using mechanical or physical lifts for transfer) and other routine daily activities.
  • Providing assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) such as light Housekeeping, menu planning and meal preparation
  • Assisting client with taking medications
  • Transportation (for shopping)
  • Accompanying (for appointments)

In facility based settings such as Acute Care Hospitals, Long-Term Care homes, and Retirement homes, what a PSW can and cannot do depends upon the policies and procedures of the respective healthcare provider.

// ]]>In such settings, a PSW follows plan of care for the patient and work under the direct supervision and in collaboration with a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN).

In compliance with the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA), Personal Support Worker also performs tasks delegated to them by RN, RPN and in some instances by Physiotherapists and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

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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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One comment

  1. I am looking into the bridging part of the psw course, I am a health care ais in the OR at the Niagara health system and have been since 2005, I need my psw certificate can you help me out? I am looking at evening or online course

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