Top Hard & Soft Skills You Need as a PSW

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!

Personal Support Workers, also known as Personal Care Attendants, are members of the healthcare industry that look after the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of patients who cannot take care of themselves. This is most common in the elderly population and those with disabilities. 

By becoming a PSW, you will be responsible for providing supportive care and ensuring your patients’ and clients’ physical and psycho-social well-being.

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. A top-notch PSW program, 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 to pursue a career as a PSW or are 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 needed to succeed in this profession. 

Let’s get started!

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills for PSWs

Like any other profession, becoming a successful personal support worker requires hard and soft skills. With determination and the right comprehensive PSW program to guide you, you can easily cultivate and refine 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 needed 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 empathy and compassion to communicate effectively with your clients, employers, and colleagues. Soft skills 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 healthcare industry members, 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 can detect, alleviate, and report any such problems to doctors, emergency responders, or any medical assistance provider from an informed standpoint. 

2. Knowledge of Common Physical Health Conditions

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 and the medication or care they need – especially for the elderly demographic. 

A few examples include arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. With enough background knowledge of such conditions, PSWs can assist clients with lifestyle choices that benefit their health while providing emotional support.

3. Knowledge of Common Cognitive Problems and Mental Health Issues

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, and brain tumours. These conditions may already be present in the client, or they may develop over time. These conditions are displayed differently in each patient, so it is important for those taking care of the patient to be familiar with their responses, patterns, coping mechanisms and more. 

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 most clients need assistance with is personal hygiene. This can include bathing, grooming, and dressing. Personal support Workers 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 PSWs may work with clients who 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 with 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.

This documentation can include the medication they have taken for different medical needs, records of their behaviour and responses to certain events or treatments, important medical history and much more.

 Documentation can help physicians, the client’s family, and/or other PSW colleagues understand any changes in the client’s needs.

That’s it for hard skills. Let’s take a look at soft skills now!

Top Hard & Soft Skills You Need as a PSW

Soft Skills Needed by Personal Support Workers

1. Empathy and Patience

Empathy and patience are two of the most important personal support worker skills. 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 their unique physical, emotional, and mental challenges. 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 Thinking

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 not go 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. This will also positively impact their patients and community, bringing a more balanced and welcoming presence to their lives.

4. Time Management and Organization

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

Some clients will have strict medication schedules, daily activities, or personal habits in their day-to-day life.  They will also need someone to track them and get them to appointments or meetings.

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.

In addition to hard and soft skills, a PSW should possess numerous professional skills!

Caregiver bringing groceries to a woman at her home

Personal Support Worker Professional Skills 


Professional skills are those that are specific to a personal support worker and their role. These are the things that you will likely learn during your training program and are related to concrete activities that you will perform over the course of your career

That said, some of these are skills you’ve likely learned over your own life, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, driving a car, and so on. Some of your patients will need assistance with these tasks to help improve their quality of life, and knowing these essentials will often help you on the job.


You’ll also need to learn many medical-professional skills, especially for patients who are chronically ill or in palliative care. These can include how to administer medications, dressing changes, and ensuring proper monitoring and recording for their medical team. 

While there will likely also be a nurse on hand or visiting in some cases, you will still need training in these areas for non-invasive and/or non-sterile medical care. Additionally, you’ll want to be trained in CPR and how to safely lift and move low-mobility patients. 

Proper hygiene care will also be essential, especially for bed-ridden or low-mobility patients, who may not be able to perform those tasks themselves, and can have implications for their overall health if not done properly.


As a personal support worker, you’ll also need to be trained in specific social support topics to provide the right level of care for your patients and their families. Such topics include abuse and neglect, care for the dying, family assistance, and care for cognitive and mental health concerns. You should be well versed in navigating different interpersonal situations and treating different conditions, especially chronic or cognitive conditions, as part of your PSW professional skill set.

Develop Your PSW Skills With Cestar College

At Cestar, we focus on ensuring you have all the requisite skills and training to complete your NAAC examination at the end of your personal support worker course. We cover all the professional skills listed above, and more, so you have the knowledge and capabilities to work in different settings with different patients while maintaining the same excellent standard of care.

Through your placement hours, both in facilities and in the community, you’ll be able to practice these professional skills while also developing your personal skills and understanding how they come together in your career as a personal support worker. After 7 months in Cestar’s NAAC Personal Support Worker Training program, you’ll be ready to enter the workforce with all the accreditation and skills employers are looking for.

Contact us today to learn more about the program, admissions, and financial aid!

About Cestar College’s PSW Program

By applying to Cestar College’s Personal Support Worker (PSW) program, you’re choosing:

  • One of the most comprehensive Personal Support Worker curriculums in Ontario, covering all aspects of healthcare available to PSW graduates. 
  • 700 hours of learning, including 200 hours of Clinical Placement and 110 hours of Facility Placement, giving you the benefits of real-life work experience while still in school. 
  • A campus conveniently located in Toronto, providing students with access to every amenity possible.
  • Small class sizes that foster discussion-based education and provide a welcoming learning environment for all students. 
  • Dedicated instructors with years of experience who take pride in seeing their students succeed. 
  • A challenging but rewarding learning experience full of support from all Cestar College faculty and administrators.

For more information about our program, visit our program page today!

Have any questions for us? 

Please feel free to contact us. One of our representatives will be happy to assist you!

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