September 2014 - Politics in my workplace as a PSW

Politics in my work place as a PSW by Sherry Wessel, First Place Purple Day Story Winner [Read an excerpt from her winning essay below]

There are positive and negative aspects to the politics in a PSW workplace. I work in Long Term Care (LTC) so my thoughts represent that of LTC. PSWs are front line workers. We know the residents inside out; sometimes we are their family, sometimes their link to the outside world. We listen about their lifetime, we give our hands for them to hold when they are scared or just want to go back home, and we leave them at the end of our shift with a hug and a promise to see them tomorrow. We do our best to meet their needs, physical, social and psychological.

PSWs make up a substantial proportion of the Ontario health care work force. PSWs provide much needed assistance with activities of daily living, yet the government knows little about us. 96 % are female and 4 % male.The government does not classify PSWs as a stand alone job category; we are unregulated health care workers that have no regulating body. The government, without knowing what our job consists of, dictates what we are worth in wages, the ratio of PSW to resident, and the time needed to care for a resident throughout the course of a day among other things.

The need for PSWs is expected to double in the next decade. They provide a great deal, if not most, of the direct care services for the elderly population.  With the increased demands on PSWs and a growing need for our skills, there are so many unresolved issues like training, scope of practice, and work environment not to mention wage increases. We need working conditions that allow us to provide the compassionate and high-quality care our residents deserve.

Everything is about legal accountability these days not about actual quality of care. The government is forcing us to be task orientated. When will those designing and implementing care for seniors understand quality is more than assistance with activities of daily living. PSWs are, in many ways, the backbone of Ontarios’s health care system. We spend more time with residents and are more hands-on than any other member of the health care team and still many PSWs feel unrecognized and unappreciated. Most PSWs would say that the best, most personally rewarding job in the world is that of a PSW. As I once read: “We may not be registered staff, CEO's, administration or the government but we are not only PSWs, ‘WE ARE ANGELS IN DISGUISE TO MANY’ ”.

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