Top Hard & Soft Skills You Need as a PSW | Cestar College
A PSW helps an elderly man walk with his cane
10 Dec 2020

Top Hard & Soft Skills You Need as a PSW

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    If you want a fulfilling healthcare career that allows you to directly make a difference in the lives of your clients, then becoming a personal support worker is the job for you! By becoming a PSW, you will be responsible for providing supportive care and ensuring the physical and psycho-social well-being of your patients and clients. 

    One of the key benefits of this career path is the accelerated learning experience; becoming a PSW is the fastest way to start a career in healthcare. Top-notch PSW programs, like the NACC Personal Support Worker program offered by Cestar College, only takes seven months to complete.

    Additionally, there are more PSWs retiring than those beginning this career path in Canada. This means that PSWs are currently in high demand. Therefore, securing a job with a competitive salary will take little, to no time at all. Whether you have decided on pursuing a career as a PSW or just weighing your options, you’re in the right place! We’ve put together this comprehensive PSW skills list where we discuss the hard and soft skills that you need to succeed in this profession. 

    Let’s get started!

     Caregiver bringing groceries to a woman at her home

    The Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills for PSWs

    Just like any other profession, becoming a successful personal support worker requires a set of hard and soft skills. With determination and the right comprehensive PSW program to guide you, you can easily cultivate and refine all of the needed PSW skills.

    Soft and hard skills are equally important in the field of supportive care. Hard skills include the technical knowledge and competencies that you need to perform your job safely and effectively. However, having hard skills alone is not enough. 

    You also need the right set of soft skills. Soft skills relate more to your insights, motivations, feelings, and emotions. These skills allow you to add “human touch” to communicate effectively with your clients, employers, and colleagues. Soft skills also allow you to manage yourself well and stand out as an excellent personal support worker. 

    Hard Skills Needed by Personal Support Workers

    1. Knowledge of Body Systems

    As valuable members of the healthcare industry, personal support workers need a foundational understanding of the body’s anatomy. This understanding gives PSWs further context regarding health problems, ailments, or aches that their clients may be suffering from. This way, PSWs are able to detect, alleviate, and report any such problems from an informed standpoint.  

    2. Knowledge of Common Physical Health Condition

    Typically, personal support workers provide supportive care to individuals who are ill, elderly, or disabled. As such, qualified PSWs need to have knowledge about the common health conditions of these potential clients – especially for the elderly demographic. 

    A few examples include arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. With enough background knowledge of such conditions, PSWs will be able to assist clients with lifestyle choices that benefit their health.

    3. Knowledge of Common Cognitive Problems and Mental Health

    Personal support workers also play a valuable role in promoting the psycho-social well-being of their patients or clients. As such, PSWs need to have familiarity with common cognitive problems and mental health issues that their clients could suffer from. 

    A few examples include depression, anxiety, dementia, brain tumours, and so on. These conditions may already be present in the client or may develop over time. Hence, PSWs need to know how to recognize and appropriately respond to the symptoms.

    4. Proper Techniques in Assisting with Personal Hygiene

    A common daily living task that most clients need assistance with is personal hygiene. This can include bathing, grooming, dressing, and so on. These PSW skills include the need to know the proper techniques that will allow them to provide this aspect of supportive care in an effective and respectful way. 

    5. Best Practices in Nutrition and Assisting with Medication

    Personal support workers are typically in charge of preparing the meals of their clients and ensuring that the right medication is taken on time. These, of course, would be aligned with directives from the client’s physician. Additionally, PSWs need to maintain the client’s hydration levels by ensuring they’re meeting their daily water intake. 

    6. Can Safely Operate Mobility Machinery/Devices

    Some clients PSWs may work with have limited or no mobility. As such, ensuring safe mobility is a vital PSW skill. This may involve lifting and pivoting techniques and/or the use of assistive machinery. 

    A few common machines used by personal support workers include sit-to-stand lifts and Hoyer lifts. The sit-to-stand lift assists patients who can bear weight in standing up. Meanwhile, the Hoyer lift is used to transfer a patient, who has highly-limited mobility from their bed to a chair and vice versa.

    7. Proper Documentation

    The needs of a client or patient may change rapidly or gradually over time. Therefore, the organization and preparedness of proper documentation are valuable personal support worker skills. Documentation can help physicians, the client’s family, and/or other PSW colleagues in understanding any changes with the client’s needs. 

     with the client’s needs.

    Soft Skills Needed by Personal Support Workers

    1. Empathy and Patience

    Empathy and patience are two of the most important personal support worker skills to have. Clients tend to have specific needs and limitations. They may also have days when they are “difficult” to interact with – this can be due to the unique physical, emotional, and mental challenges that they face. By employing virtues like empathy and patience, the PSW is able to put themselves in the shoes of the client and communicate from a place of understanding. 

    2. Keen Observation and Critical Thinkin

    PSWs need to have keen observation and critical thinking skills. This way, they can detect and respond to changes in their client’s behaviour, appetite, habits, and overall outlook. Such changes can signal deteriorations in the client’s physical or mental health and should therefore not go by unnoticed. 

    3. Positive and Uplifting

    A positive attitude can go a long way in every occupation. Personal support workers may have challenging days every now and then but a strong positive outlook on life will be helpful to them, and to the people they interact with on the job.

    4. Time Management and Organization

    One of the most useful PSW skills to have is proper time management and organization. These two skills together allow the personal support worker to stick to a schedule and to keep the environment they work in as neat as possible. Routine and a sense of order are important for the client’s health and well-being.

    5. Teamwork and Communication

    Teamwork and communication are highly important PSW skills – especially for PSWs who work with colleagues or superiors. Teamwork and communication will allow them to effectively distribute tasks, learn from each other’s insights, and work together to provide the best possible experience for their client or patient. 

    Get the Skills and Qualifications You Need to Become a Successful PSW

    The NACC Personal Support Worker Course offered by Cestar College is a comprehensive 7-month training program that gives you the skills and qualifications you need to be a hirable and successful personal support worker. 

    Our curriculum adheres to the highest standards and is delivered using effective instructional methods. This program also gives graduates practical experience by including clinical placements. 

    If you have any questions about the curriculum, PSW skills and career, or if you’d like to take the next steps, please feel free to contact us!


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