In order to become a Personal Support Worker (PSW) in Ontario, you must pursue a PSW program and obtain a diploma from an institution that is accredited by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.
However, this was not the case in the past.
There were many private career colleges enrolling students in PSW programs with no standard curriculum.
As a result, the knowledge one would gain with these type of PSW programs proved inadequate when it came to performing the job duties.
There was no consistency in curriculum required to become a Personal Support Worker.
PLANNING TO BECOME A PSW
If you are hoping to become a PSW in Ontario, or are currently employed as one and would like to learn more about the new educational program standard for support workers,
then this article is for you.
It will provide you with all the information that you will need.
Our objective is to provide you with relevant information regarding changes to the current PSW program requirements.
This will eventually enable you to make an informed choice as you embark on a career as a Personal Support Worker.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
When contacted for the purpose of this article, a Senior Practice Advisor for the PSW Network of Ontario who acted as a consultant in the development of the 1997 PSW educational standard indicated that:
“Individuals who are planning to enroll in a PSW course do their homework before applying to any program.”
Potential students are advised to ascertain whether or not both the school you wish to attend as well as its satellite campuses do, in fact, adhere to the new PSW educational standards (more on this ahead).
Oftentimes post-secondary institutions feature large campuses with branches in various cities that do not all meet the same criteria.
Many of you aren’t aware of this when you initially apply to these colleges.
Therefore if you are interested in embarking on a career as a support worker, you should ensure that you thoroughly research the educational institution and the PSW program they offer.
NEW PSW COMMON EDUCATIONAL STANDARD
With an increasing amount of individuals seeking to embark on a career in the healthcare field, specifically as PSWs, the need to develop a more cohesive framework and standardized education became a priority for the province’s the then government.
From 2012 to 2014, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities partnered with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Education to develop a common vocational standard for Personal Support Worker programs.
And finally, in 2014, a new standard for Personal Support Workers in Ontario was developed in an effort to create a higher degree of consistency in both the educational system and within the profession itself.
The primary goal of this common vocational standard was to promote consistency in education and training outcomes across all educational institutions offering PSW programs.
These institutions include:
The new common standard was publicly released in 2014 for implementation starting in September 2015.
WHAT’S NEW IN PSW EDUCATION
The new standard is currently being adhered to by all Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, school boards and the majority of private colleges.
The sweeping 55-page document entitled the Personal Support Worker Program Standard, provides a comprehensive outline of PSW program delivery.
The ministry developed this new standard through consultations with various stakeholders including members of the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) in addition to the Ontario Long Term Care Association and educational institutions such as La Cite Collegiale and Algonquin College.
MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGES
The most significant changes (in comparison to the previous standards) include the addition of the following components:
- functional assessment,
- acquired brain injury education,
- enhancements in areas pertaining to sexuality, and
- increased capacity building.
The new PSW educational standard further focusses on the following areas of learning:
PSW PROGRAM STANDARD
This ensures that graduates of the program are able to effectively provide supportive care to patients/clients who suffer from either
- mental health difficulties,
- physical disabilities, or
- cognitive impairments across their lifespans.
Having this component in the new PSW program ensures you gain the skills, knowledge base and both practical and theoretical education to obtain an entry-level position in a multitude of settings.
Upon completion of a PSW program that follows the new educational standard, you will also gain the ability to develop efficient and collaborative working relationships with your colleagues while ensuring the highest standards of care.
The new PSW educational program standard outlines “elements of performance” which you will learn as you complete the program.
Some of these performance elements are:
- respect towards individual dignity and autonomy, and
- the need to identify individual family structure.
Graduates are thus provided with the skills and knowledge to not only provide assistance with daily living; those who have completed the program are also expected to fully grasp several major fundamental concepts as well.
The concepts include, but are not limited to:
- client-centered, supported, end-of-life and culturally relevant care,
- helping relationship, responsive behaviors,
- general makeup, and
- the functionality of an inter-professional care team.
ESSENTIAL EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS (EES)
This is a very important addition to the new standard.
It ensures that you not only be taught how to perform support services but also how to be successful in the job market.
Essential Employability Skills are considered to be “critical” in the workplace as well as in daily living and for the purposes of lifelong learning.
These pertinent skills can potentially assist you in making yourself more marketable in the workforce and thus increase your likelihood of securing employment.
The Essential Employability Skills (EES) that you’ll learn as part of the new curriculum standard are:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Information Management
- Interpersonal (skills)
- Personal (skills)
The new standard uses many learning objectives that are intended to essentially evaluate your ability to demonstrate the skills in question upon completion of the program.
for critical thinking and problem solving, you would be required to demonstrate the ability to:
- apply a systematic approach to problem-solving, and
- use a variety of thinking skills to anticipate and solve problems.
Conversely, for interpersonal skills, you will be expected to
- show respect for the diverse opinions, values, belief systems and contributions of others
- interact with others in groups or teams in ways that contribute to effective working relationships and the achievement of goals.
The new educational standard identifies various different themes which educational institutions that offer PSW programs are advised to utilize as a guide when determining the PSW program structure.
In sum, the new educational standard includes amendments made to the curriculums of 4 different bodies that offer PSW programs:
- Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology which had previously used a Ministry of Training and Colleges and Universities Standard
- Private career colleges which had previously used the curriculum provided by the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC)
- School boards which used a standard provided by the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA), which had its own process called the PSW Educational Program Accreditation process (PEPA)
Note* The fourth body is not covered under the new legislation and is comprised of companies or organizations that provide educational programming as a “3rd party” to PSWs employed through staffing agencies.
The educational standards established for PSWs in Ontario have undergone significant change over the last two decades.
Personal Support Workers are in demand and as such, programs and courses designed to prepare you to enter the workforce have increased commensurately.
However, unlike registered health care professionals who are protected under regulations outlined in their respective acts, up until recently, no clear standard had existed with respect to the education and training of prospective support workers.
The lack of consistency and clarity frustrated stakeholders including individuals looking to pursue a career as a PSW as well as employers, which ultimately served to create a systemic imbalance within the field.
Although standards were outlined in 1997, they often were not adhered to by employers and ceased being an effective means to create consistency with respect to educating PSWs.
As a result, the stipulations made in the 2007 Long-Term Care Homes Act began to be followed instead.
However, the variances that were inherent in the document did not serve to mitigate the issues that many individuals working within the field often criticized.
With the new educational standard for PSWs, hopefully, a significantly higher degree of consistency, efficiency, and clarity develops across the board.
Thus, you can expect to receive an education that will ensure that you and all new PSWs will have the same skills, knowledge, and expertise upon entering the field.
Therefore in doing so, you will be able to obtain the standard of education that PSWs require, enabling you to provide the best care possible for those in need of it both now, as well as in the future.