Vittoria is a personal support worker (PSW) at ParaMed in Toronto. She has a family history of illnesses and knows what families go through emotionally with their sick loved ones, so being able to put herself in their shoes as a PSW means a lot to her.
“I am very empathetic toward my clients and their families because I know what it’s like to see people you love suffering all the time. When you’ve had clients for many years, you do get attached to them, even though this is a job. It’s important to treat your patients with the same respect and dignity you would a family member.”
The emotions can become difficult to handle, she says, especially when the nature of her work doesn’t give her time to mourn family losses.
“When it’s over, it still hits you the next morning – even for the next few months. You still want to grieve even though it’s not your family. But it’s just another case for your company, and you have no choice but to move on to the next client.”
She also feels frustrated by the way PSWs are viewed in the community, and wants the additional roles they take on to be acknowledged:
“PSWs, frankly, are not just PSWs. You get delegated the kind of tasks normally performed by nurses, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, dieticians, psychologists, occupational and behavioural therapists, and the list goes on.”
“It’s sad that PSWs aren’t recognized under any regulated division of the healthcare program. It’s one of the most important jobs in the world; we’re trying to make people happier, healthier, and more independent on an ongoing basis. This is a team, and everyone in it is important, so PSWs should be a part of it as well.”
Being a PSW is a constant learning process, and Vittoria offers this advice to those aspiring to get into the field:
“Whenever you get a new client, you must try to understand their needs and work out the best way to accommodate those needs. It’s important to do your research; talk to other PSWs who’ve worked on similar cases as well as the client’s family, because virtually no two cases will ever be the same. You’ll always be educating yourself on the job. It’s challenging, but if it puts a smile on your clients’ faces it’ll make you happy as well.”