Seven Keys in Professionalism for Personal Support Workers

This article is based on the presentation given by Miranda Ferrier on the topic of “Professionalism in the workforce” during the first annual Ontario Personal Support Worker Association (OPSWA) PSW conference at the Mount Sanai Hospital.  

Miranda is the founder and president of OPSWA. Click here for more information on this organization. 

Here are the keys to Professional Work Ethics for Personal Support Workers. 

Professionalism in the workplace is an important component of doing the best job possible. Personal Support Workers provide care for patients and clients who may be seriously ill or to residents who are vulnerable.

Professional attitude allows them to maintain the highest quality of care possible. Adhering to professional guidelines and standards will not only make your jobs easier and more rewarding, it will bring you respect from your co-workers and clients as well.



There are six areas, or keys, which promote a high level of professionalism in the workplace:

  • Character
  • Attitude
  • Excellence
  • Competency
  • Conduct
  • Professional Personal Presentation
  • Teamwork


It is what you do when no one is looking.

A person of true character makes decisions based on what is right and follows through on what they say they will do.

For example, a PSW who tells a resident that she will be back and then makes sure she return. That kind of commitment is following through on what you’ve said you will do and that is character which can be trusted.


It matters and attitude changes everything.

A positive attitude helps PSWs connect with your clients and makes a positive impact on their lives. Keeping a positive attitude involves leaving the outside issues outside and remembering that the people you are working with are not an inconvenience but the very reason for the job.

A positive attitude is reflected in respect for oneself,for the clients and for the space itself.

“The residents do not live in your workplace. You work in their home.”

Remembering to be respectful of their living space will show your clients they are important to you and that you respect them. This treatment will foster a more positive relationship.


It involves a number of components, such as:

  • Ownership – taking responsibility for the choices you make and the consequences
  • Making the most of every moment – it may be the last time you see that person
  • Learning to do things differently – accommodate clients’ requests when you can
  • Commitment – take positive action and do what needs to be done
  • Learning from your mistakes – failure leads to success
  • Speaking with good purpose – think before you speak
  • Balance – focus on what’s meaningful and important
  • Integrity – matching one’s behavior to one’s values


It is essential for a Personal Support Worker to bring the best skills possible to their job.

Ongoing training is a key component of maintaining the competency needed for a PSW to keep their skills at the highest level.

You as a PSW should not allow yourself to be pushed to do something you do not feel comfortable with or have not been trained for.

Putting yourself in the situation of performing a task you have not had the training to do can bring long-term negative consequences for you and the person you are providing care.


For a professional, conduct involves both inner and outer aspects.

Dressing appropriately in clothing that is clean and in good condition is a sign of respect for both yourself and the clients.

Professional conduct also includes the way in which a PSW responds to questions and comments, which should always be clear, accurate and positive.

The ability to maintain client confidentiality is a sign of professional conduct.

One example is not to discuss clients on the phone even without naming names. It is possible to be overheard and if a family member or friend of the client should happen to hear, it could be devastating for their trust in that staff member.

Maintaining personal boundaries in the workplace is another important component of the type of professional conduct. Disagreements should never reach the level where staff members are fighting with each other in front of clients.

This type of behavior shows a lack of respect for the space as the home of the residents as well as a lack of self-respect and control.

Punctuality is important to maintaining a professional environment. Being on time for your shift and prepared for the job makes the work easier on everyone.

Lastly, the importance of communicating clearly and making sure your communications are understood cannot be undermined.

Information regarding clients should be passed on to staff in an understandable manner. There can be potential for negative consequences should staff members not receive or understand pertinent information about their clients.


It goes beyond outward appearance alone. Presenting oneself in a professional manner also involves communicating clearly when asked questions, maintaining one’s compassion and remembering the reasons for the job when faced with challenging clients.

Professional personal presentation is the combination of all the reasons why one is a Personal Support Worker.

There is No “Me” in Team

Before focusing on the many things teamwork consists of, here are some of the things that teamwork is not.

Teamwork is NOT:

  • One person doing way more than his/her share of the workload, or that one lets other people take advantage of them, talk down to them or treat them badly.
  • Going along with it when rules were being broken or the health and safety of staff or clients is being put at risk.
  • Doing things without thinking them through first is not what good teamwork is about.
  • Doing everything everyone asks of you with no regard for personal boundaries.

 What teamwork does require of you, is to “abide by the Golden Rule, go the extra mile, communicate clearly, see the bigger picture, and offer to help out when you can”.

Teamwork is an integral part of professionalism. Many of the ideas and concepts discussed about what makes up a professional PSW apply to being part of a team as well.

Being a team player still allows one to be assertive and set clear boundaries with co-workers, managers and clients. A good team member will not participate in gossip or negative behaviors which can destroy morale and will remain respectful in words and actions to those around them.

As a part of a team, each member must be aware of the fact that what they do reflect on the whole team. Positive actions will bring credit to the entire group. Members should support and encourage each other to be the best that they can be.

One last thing to always keep in mind is that the work which PSWs do is a team effort.

Making that effort a positive one will improve each member’s relationships with their colleagues and their clients. The reward for these positive interactions also includes a positive impact on how people treat you, making both the work and the workplace easier and more enjoyable.

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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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