The career of a Personal Support Worker is very rewarding 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.
AN EARLY MORNING START: 0700
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.
BREAKING THE FAST: 0900
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.
THE LUNCH: 1200
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.
THE HOME STRETCH: 1300
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.