Our nation is facing shortages of all kinds during these unprecedented times. Here, we share our thoughts with our readers about the significance of personal support workers in the healthcare sector and how long-term care homes can navigate staffing challenges in the face of extreme worker shortage.
Personal Support Workers
What is a personal support worker? What role do they play in the healthcare industry?
Personal health workers, or PSWs, are arguably some of the most important pieces to Ontario’s healthcare system. They are members of the frontline workforce who often put their needs aside for those of their patients and have naturally become essential to the healthcare sector. These workers frequently work out of residential homes that provide long-term care for those in need.
The PSW force is predominately female in nature, of which conducts a range of duties that include providing ADL, feeding, dressing, bathing, transferring, incontinence care and ensuring patient safety. The job can also involve providing transportation and light housekeeping as well. The work of a PSW can be both physically and emotionally demanding and requires that the individuals be flexible in schedule and are prepared for complex situations.
These individuals are CPR/First Aid certified and are required to have a Personal Support Worker Certificate following the completion of their high school or college diploma.
The battle between the Canadian Federal Government and Ontario’s PSWs is not a story unheard of. For the past few years, PSWs have been leaving the field because of poor working conditions and a lack of adequate pay.
To date, the continuous understaffing of long-term care homes has created a significant shortage of PSWs in the province, which ultimately puts the safety of residents at great risk. As the needs of seniors coming into these homes grow more complicated, so do the working conditions for the staff as they are forced to adapt to difficult situations and become more heavily depended upon.
Much of the workforce argues that the resident to staff ratios are too extreme, which takes away from a PSW’s ability to provide quality care for their residents, and even for themselves as workers. Essentially, Ontario’s PSW teams are almost always under-staffed, creating a less than ideal work environment. These poor work environments have reportedly involved a significant amount of violence linked to the continuous shortage in staffing.
It is not entirely uncommon for the work of PSWs to go unnoticed, unrecognized and unappreciated as their field is not officially specialized or regulated. Aside from low wages, PSWs often face industry ridicule from their superiors and endure their careers completely unsupported.
All in all, the much-needed workforce is dwindling because of its extensive working conditions, lack of adequate compensation and pay, levels of abuse, along with a scarcity in full-time work available. The insurance of proper care is highly dependent on an appreciation for proper staffing. Unfortunately, Ontario has even seen deaths of residents that were associated with the poor staffing system, making the demand for change very high.
Effects of the Pandemic
Since the COVID-19 global pandemic first started to take its toll on our nation, staffing shortages have worsened in the healthcare community, as have the working conditions and level of risk. However, the need for healthcare teams including PSW is in higher demand than ever.
As the extremity of the pandemic grows, so do the needs of our province’s most vulnerable. Despite workforce shortages, the necessity for Ontario’s frontline workers in long-term care homes continues to sky-rocket. The staff to resident ratio is continuously worsening as days pass, cases grow, and the risk of contraction multiplies.
With recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in care facilities throughout Canada, including long-term care homes, the fear of an outbreak in Ontario’s facilities is very real. As the residents are already vulnerable with compromised immune systems, the effects of an outbreak in one of these homes could be fatal for its staff and residents, especially. Regardless of internal isolation, the risk of contraction is still high with staff coming in and out of the homes on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day.
More than ever, these facilities are feeling the pains of PSW shortages as they battle their own fights against the fast-spreading virus. As the situation worsens, long-term care facilities are hopeful for the return of experienced PSWs to continue with quality care and taking the professional precautions necessary for containing the virus.
Filling the Gap
So, what is the solution? Together, we need to fill the gap.
Arguably, it is difficult to challenge both a government and a global pandemic; however, it does not make it impossible to take some sort of action, no matter how small. In a time of doubt, worry and fear, the need for qualified staff in the healthcare sector is essential for the safety of Ontario’s long-term care homes and various other facilities, as well as their staff teams.
Talent and experience exist in this space of the industry; however, proper qualifications of workers for the right facilities must be matched, and workers must be respected. During this span of uncertainty, long-term care facilities have the opportunity to provide viable work to Ontario’s PSW force that still exists.
A lack of full-time employment has continuously been a challenge for PSWs over recent years, but now is the chance to challenge that. Care homes have the opportunity now to utilize full-time employees in an effort to combat COVID-19, poor working conditions and unrecognized work as a province and promise the safety and proper care of Ontario’s vulnerable residents.
Health OPM is a great resource for both PSWs and long-term care facilities to engage with as our focus is to provide the perfect match between employee and employer in the healthcare industry. For more information on how we can help your care facility with the recruitment and management of healthcare teams, specifically PSWs, visit our main site or contact us directly with your inquiry.
If you are a PSW, we are calling on you to reach out for the people of your province who need you now more than ever. We are always looking for new talent, so please visit our site for more information on how you can help; Ontario’s most vulnerable are counting on you.