Personal Support Worker (PSW) in Canada

What is a Personal Support Worker (PSW)?

Personal Support Worker - Job opportunity in Canada
Personal Support Worker – Job opportunity in Canada

A Personal Support Worker (PSW) in Canada is a caregiver who assists people with daily personal care needs as they deal with the effects of aging, injury or illness. A Personal Support Worker works under the direction of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Registered Practical Nurse (RPN).

It is important to differentiate between PSWs in health care facilities and home care. Positions in home care such as health care aides, home support workers, personal care workers and attendants (see “Similar titles“) are mostly unregulated.

In the course of remaking the health care system in Canada, Personal Support Workers are reported to be in growing demand.

Similar titles

PSW is often used together with HCA or interchangeably. HCA is an acronym for Health Care Aide. According to the (NOC) National Occupational Classification, some additional titles for similar positions are:

  • emergency medical responder
  • health care aide
  • hospital attendant
  • long term care aide
  • nurse aide
  • nursing attendant
  • orderly
  • patient care aide
  • patient service associate
  • personal care attendant – medical
  • psychiatric aide
  • resident care aide – medical

All these job titles may have the same or similar job requirements. In fact, many job postings for these positions have vague job descriptions, particularly when it comes to home support.

Major duties

In most job postings you will find all or some of the following job duties:

  • assists with all activities of daily living including bathing, toileting, dressing, mobility and feeding
  • sorts and bags all soiled linen, makes and changes beds, cleans and tidies resident rooms
  • supports client’s independence regarding medications
  • recognizes and reports changes in a client’s behaviour/condition
  • provides informal counselling, as needed

Duties and skills to support clients at their homes or residences may include assistance with shopping, light cleaning, meal preparation and laundry.

Qualifications and requirements

  • A PSW certificate is not a necessity but is required quite often. (See How to Become Certified as a Personal Support Worker.) In some job postings there is no mention of a PSW certificate. Then you will most likely find a requirement for post-secondary studies in a related field or for willingness to be trained by the employer. Here is Safete’s story from the survey by the Immigrant and Refugee Employment Services Committee, Hamilton Training Advisory Board.Safete’s story . . .
    Safete, one of the nurses interviewed, has over 20 years’ nursing experience and speaks three languages. She came to Canada as a refugee three years ago from Kosovo. Her English level is advanced. Asked what would most help her enter the nursing field, she replied, “To get a real certificate…even for a job as PSW.” Safete has been accepted for a PSW course at a local health institute. Because the institute recognizes her qualifications, she can complete this program in two months rather than six.
  • The following “buzz words” often appear in job postings for Personal Support Workers:
    · assisting with personal hygiene
    · household management
    · caregiver relief
    · recognize ongoing medical conditions
    · work with individuals with cognitive impairment and mental health issues
    · provide optimal support
  • Personal attributes and qualities are extremely important if you work as a Personal Support Worker. Visiting The National Association of Certified Personal Support Workers (NACPSW) may help you find out what are the expected attributes of this occupation. You can use these words when building your resume and presenting yourself as a professional.Examples:
    • Ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
    • Empathy
    • Flexibility
    • Assertiveness
    • Respect for confidentiality
    • Sense of humour
    • Dedicated
    • Caring/compassionate
    • Patient
    • Role model
    • Respectful
    • Positive/optimistic
    • Confident/self-accepting

Who are the employers?

Typical areas of job opportunities:

  • hospitals
  • nursing homes or long-term care facilities
  • retirement or senior homes
  • community care centres
  • health care services providers
  • social and family services
  • Alzheimer’s programs

You can also become self-employed or get a private contract with a health care agency.


The wage gap between those employed in home and community care, and those employed in facility care is significant. Generally, job postings show the compensation range in homes at $8 to $12 per hour. In facility care, the reviewed job postings showed a range of $10 to $16 per hour, or $22,000 to $26,000 annually. Most positions are part-time and do not provide benefit packages.

Where to find job postings?

Job Bank
Try searching by keywords in the Job Title box:
– support
– care

Workopolis’ health care positions.

HealtheCareers Network
North America’s job board for health care professionals.

Community Care Access Centre Centre
Explore employment opportunities of specific Communities Care Access Centres in your area.

Community Health Centre Locator
Check out Community Health Centres in your area.
Home care jobs ‐ either live-in or live-out.

Professional associations

Professional associations are often a good source for information about specific occupations they represent. Visit the Web site of The National Association of Certified Personal Support Workers (NACPSW) to find out more about this area of work.

You may also find informative the websites of the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and the Ontario Home Care Association (OHCA) They post the latest news in the field.