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Celebrating Personal Support Workers’ Day

Updated: May 30, 2022

Today, Able Innovations expresses our gratitude for personal support workers, and our

commitment to improving their quality of work-life through technological advances.

Personal support workers, (also known as Nursing Aides, Unlicensed Assistive personnel, and Home Healthcare Aides) are hidden figures that play a crucial role in the upkeep of the health of vulnerable Canadians. In hospitals, PSWs and nurses work together closely in providing patient care. Outside of acute care settings, personal support workers are the most prevalent frontline healthcare workers.

Personal support workers are most common in retirement homes, long-term care facilities, and in homecare settings. They help clients by assisting in the essential activities of daily living that must be performed to keep good physical, psychological, and social well-being. Such assistance includes ambulation and mobilization of patients, assisting with personal hygiene and dressing, feeding, and invaluable emotional and support services to clients, their families, and other caregivers. This is by no means an exhaustive list: the services of a personal support worker seem to have not bounds, and PSWs often go the extra mile to meet the needs of their clients.

It’s difficult to understate just how vital personal support workers are to maintaining the capacity of our healthcare system. Though they are present across the healthcare continuum, a definite number of the PSWs working in Canada is not precisely known, owing in part to the “paraprofessional” nature of the occupation. A 2006 estimate by Health Canada placed 100,000 PSWs in Ontario alone, suggesting roughly 500,000 PSWs working throughout Canada today. PSWs play a hugely important role in caring for Canada’s elderly population - recently, the importance of this work has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many PSWs being the sole source of care and support for older adults in isolation. As our population continues to age, the visibility and importance of their services will grow. PSWs also play a vital role in alleviating some of the strain that informal caregivers, such as family and friends of clients, can experience when they suddenly and unexpectedly become responsible for caring for a loved one.

Unfortunately, the turnover rate among PSWs is very high. This lack of consistency in care can be detrimental to the care experience of clients, and cause stress and dissatisfaction. Often PSWs and clients form a special relationship, and it is tough on both parties when a worker leaves the occupation. The reasons for such a high turnover are myriad: it is more than just insufficient pay. Personal support workers often cite several reasons for leaving the profession, the most common being the high stress levels, the intense physical demands of the work, inflexibility with shift scheduling, and a perceived lack of respect the unlicensed personnel receive.

Considering how essential PSWs are in caring for older adults, it is imperative that we make the necessary changes to the occupation to ensure it remains attractive in the future, as demand for their work is sure to grow. Certainly, pay increases would make a significant difference; the median hourly wage in Ontario is $16.50, which may not be sufficient for some workers in covering the compounding costs of physical and emotional stresses in their work. But an increase in pay is only part of the solution, and more can be done to elevate the profession. The Ontario Personal Support Worker’s Association and its president Miranda Ferrier are advocating for self-regulation of Personal Support Workers - they believe this regulation will lead to much greater accountability of PSWs, leading to greater recognition and respect for their work, and eventually increased pay.

The experience of PSWs has always been at the forefront for Able Innovations. It was in fact the daily experience of personal support workers and clients in transfers that inspired the founding of Able Innovations. In his youth, Able’s CEO & Founder Jay Singh frequently volunteered in the long-term care homes where his mother worked. While volunteering, he often saw the challenges of transferring clients for both PSWs and residents; with the current patient transfer equipment and methods, PSWs were subject to an immense amount of physical strain during transfers, leading to an extremely high rate of injuries. The current methods are hands-on and rather invasive, often leading to feelings of discomfort for clients, or in some cases expressions from clients suffering from cognitive impairment. We are hoping that our automated DELTA Platform will help alleviate some of the physical and emotional stresses of a PSW’s daily duties, by enabling a hands-free and effortless method of transferring clients in a dignified manner.

Technology can help alleviate some of the strain that is placed on personal support workers everyday, but it is far from the end-all be-all. A serious re-examination of the nature of the profession is needed to keep personal support workers from leaving the industry, and to make this profession attractive in the future. Today, Able Innovations expresses our gratitude for personal support workers, and our commitment to improving their quality of work-life through technological advances.

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