Home Care vs. Nursing Home: PSW Career Paths | Cestar College
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Personal support worker in a nursing home talking to a resident
22 Jan 2021

Home Care vs. Nursing Home: PSW Career Paths

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    Personal support workers are individuals who have undergone specialized training in order to provide supportive care to patients or clients. PSWs are responsible for ensuring the physical and psycho-social well-being of the person/people that they care for. It is an important role to their patients, the patients’ family, and the community overall.

    Recently, however, with more PSWs retiring than new PSW graduates stepping into the field, there is a growing demand for PSWs in Canada. One of the possible reasons for this is that the benefits of this career are not well-known. In truth, becoming a personal support worker, like many careers in healthcare, is highly stable and offers competitive salaries. But an even lesser-known benefit is that PSWs actually have various work environments that they can choose from.

    In this article, we will talk about two common work environments or PSW career paths: home care vs. nursing homes.

    Let’s get started!

    Personal support worker in home care using a stethoscope on a patient

    1. Training and Experience Needed for Home Care vs. Nursing Home

    The level of experience required for PSW jobs vary. It ultimately depends on what level of experience the home care agency or nursing home is looking for. However, having adequate training is the minimum requirement to be considered for a PSW job in these environments. It is important to note though, that certification programs are not all equal. To be considered by employers in both environments, one must undergo training from a trusted and recognized institution.

    The trusted institution’s training program must be standardized according to the Ontario PSW Training Standard and in accordance with Ontario’s laws. This is the level of standardization used by the NACC Personal Support Worker Course at Cestar College. Additionally, a total of 310 hours of clinical placement is included in this program – this gives aspiring PSWs valuable experience in a community and facility setting. This diversified kind of hands-on training and experience is valued by employers from both nursing homes and home care agencies.

    At this point, however, you may wonder if experience in nursing homes can help in securing a future job in home care or vice versa. Due to similarities in the day-to-day tasks of these roles, it is highly likely that experience in one or the other can help when seeking a different work environment within the same field. Ultimately, this still depends on the employer.

    2. Job Tasks in Home Care vs. Nursing Home

    Whether a PSW is caring for a client in their own home or working in a nursing home, most of the tasks remain the same. One difference, of course, is that home care PSWs focus on just one client while nursing home PSWs may need to budget their time to care for multiple residents. Another difference is that PSWs working in a nursing home would need to have a good sense of teamwork to effectively get daily tasks done.

    Either way, the job tasks of these two PSW career paths are as follows:

    • Give assistance regarding activities of daily living (e.g. feeding, medications, grooming, etc.)
    • Prepare meals and do light housekeeping
    • Report any unsafe conditions
    • Report any sudden alarming changes in the client’s appetite, attitude, behaviour
    • Maintain any needed documentation regarding the client

    3. The Schedule in Home Care vs. Nursing Home

    For both home care and nursing homes, patients/clients tend to need care 24/7. However, it isn’t possible that this responsibility be carried by just one person, so, here’s how scheduling works.

    When it comes to home care scheduling, there are usually two ways this is done: live-in home care and 24-hour home care.

    Live-In Home Care Scheduling 24-Hour Home Care Scheduling
    • There is usually one PSW stationed for every 24 hours.
    • Depending on the employer, one PSW may work for 4-5 days a week with this arrangement before another PSW takes over. Then the cycle continues between the PSWs assigned to the client.
    • The 24 hours includes a 4-hour break (paid) and an 8-hour sleeping break.
    • There are a minimum of two PSWs assigned to a client for every 24 hours.
    • Depending on the employer, each PSW works for only 8-12 hours per day, before being replaced by another PSW.
    • The availability of sleep breaks for PSWs who get the night schedule depends on the employer.

    When it comes to work schedules for PSWs in nursing homes, typically there are three different shifts within a 24-hour period. Depending on the employer, PSWs can be assigned any of these shifts – whether it’s the first shift, mid-shift, or the night-shift.

    In some cases, PSWs can choose which shift they prefer. Some may have familial obligations with young kids and would then need to be assigned a daytime shift, while some may not have pressing obligations and would prefer the night shift. The availability of preferential scheduling depends on the employer. As with any job, shifts have paid breaks and lunch breaks. Typically, night-shift PSWs do not sleep in nursing homes – similar to how night-shift medical personnel in hospitals go home to sleep.

    A personal support worker in a nursing home with a resident in a wheelchair

    4. The Salary in Home Care vs. Nursing Home

    Understandably, the work of a nursing home PSW is far more hectic as they need to care for multiple residents instead of focusing on just one client. This translates into the difference in pay for these two PSW career paths.

    The average salary for home care PSWs is around $32,000 per year.

    Meanwhile, the average salary for nursing home PSWs is around $41,000 per year.

    Other Work Environments

    What we’ve covered in this article are two common PSW career paths: working in home care and working in a nursing home. However, these aren’t the only career paths available for personal support workers. PSWs can also work in environments like hospitals, surgical suites, and assisted living communities. We talk more about these in our article on Career Opportunities for Personal Support Workers. If you’re curious, please feel free to give that a read!

    The NACC Personal Support Worker Course That Will Propel You to Success

    If you would like to kickstart your career as a PSW, Cestar College offers a comprehensive and immersive NACC Personal Support Worker Course that after just 7 months of training, you will have the theoretical knowledge and practical experience to succeed as a personal support worker.

    If you have any questions about the possible PSW career paths or our PSW program, please feel free to contact us!


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