Personal Support Workers- Who Are They?

August 8, 2011; By: Audrey Miller and Meghan Grondin
All About Estates

I had previously blogged on hiring a caregiver and understanding what different professional carers can provide. However within the caregiving role, those who have the most 1:1 time are personal support workers, who are an unregulated discipline. Do you know what the difference is between a regulated and unregulated health care practitioner? My colleague Meghan Grondin has provided the following:

A regulated health care practitioner is someone who has to abide by the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, other public policy, their governing body’s disciplinary procedures, code of ethics, practice standards, etc. There are only 26 regulated health care professions in Ontario (

An unregulated health care practitioner is someone who is not licensed or regulated by a professional, governmental or regulatory body. Unlike their regulated partners, they do not have a standard code of ethics, disciplinary procedures or practice standards.

Although both regulated and unregulated health professionals can work in the community, hospitals and long term care settings, the regulated fields often have a more defined scope of practice. Personal Support Workers fall within the unregulated bracket and as such their job description, role identification and scope or practice varies greatly depending on the health care setting. This can be problematic for health care consumers because they need to know and understand who to call when needed.

There is good news on the forefront – the Ontario Government recently announced they will be implementing a Registry for Personal Support Workers. The Registry will hopefully provide a database of certified and creditable PSW’s to ensure continuum of services and quality of care. The new registry will benefit over 90,000 PSWs working in Ontario; about 57,000 in long-term care homes, 26,000 in home care and 7,000 in hospitals (

No further details about the registry have been provided but hopefully the following points will be addressed:
-Mandatory registration
-Development of a code of ethics
-Consistent training programs and certification guidelines
-Professional development programs
-Guidelines for filing complaints (by the client, PSW or employer related to abuse, neglect and misconduct)
-A standardized scope of practice
-Public access to the Registry for hiring purposes

It will be interesting to see how this progresses and if it will encourage other non-regulated health practitioners to follow in their foot-steps.

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