Understanding personal support workers and their role in Ontario.
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There are an estimated 90,000 personal support workers (PSWs) in Ontario providing assistance with daily activities for individuals in hospitals, long-term care facilities, adult day programs and home care yet little is known about them. (Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care [MOHLTC], 2011b). The goals of this thesis are to better understand where the occupation of PSWs is in its development towards becoming a profession; and what the challenges, opportunities, and prospects are towards this realization. The data collection for this case study is based a scoping review of peer review articles and grey literature to describe who these workers are, their education, where they work and regulatory structures that govern their practice. The analytical framework used to examine the professional progression of PSWs is based on the neo-Weberian theory of professions. PSWs are unregulated frontline providers. Many PSWs are immigrants and visible minority females older than 45 years whose first language is not English (Aronson, Denton, & Zeytinoglu, 2004; Neysmith, Reitsma-Street, Collins, & Porter, 2004; Canadian Research Network for Care in the Community [CRNCC], 2009a). Employment status varies with the majority working in long-term care institutions. However a considerable number of PSWs work in home care. Education for PSWs is not standardized and educational requirements vary by work setting as does wage levels. Turnover is high in this occupation and there is no unifying organization representing PSWs. This study has brought to the foreground several challenges. PSWs do not meet the neo-Weberian criteria of a profession due to lack of strong leadership, adequate education, autonomy and resources that can support the complexity of a professional body. PSWs who work in the community setting have little or no support from other providers responsible for delegating and directing their work, suffer increased job insecurity and decreased pay and/or benefits.