New Online Program for PSWs Designed to Strengthen Essential Interpersonal Skills

Posted on Monday August 29, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic may be slowing down, but the work of personal support workers (PSWs) is not. In fact, the demand for PSWs is likely to increase; Statistics Canada predicts that by 2051, 24.9% of the population will be 65 years or older. (Statistics Canada)

As Lynn Steele, founder and CEO of the Canadian PSW Network, says, “PSWs are stressed. They’re burned out, and they’re tired.”  

In an effort to help combat PSW labor shortages and burnout, and to help the overall well-being of these valuable workers, the new Certificate in Advanced Interpersonal Skills for PSW Practice is being launched by the University of Guelph—with the first two courses starting this fall. The program was developed in partnership with St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph and the Canadian PSW Network and will help existing personal support workers upgrade their skills quickly, flexibly, and affordably.  

“The best time for these courses is now. All the modules tie-in so well to each other. In the hustle and bustle of being a PSW, I find that sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget to take those moments to breathe, to take those moments to put into practice the best practices that we’ve learned,” says Steele.

But how can enhancing interpersonal skills help PSWs?  

Interpersonal skills can be defined as verbal and non-verbal communication and interactions with other people. Interpersonal skills can help with problem-solving, adapting to new situations, and working within a team. For PSWs, this means enhancing interpersonal skills can help develop connections with clients and colleagues. It means being able to build on existing skills like empathizing with client needs and collaborating with colleagues smoothly to enhance patient care.  

For example, through sharp critical thinking skills, a PSW could detect and predict changes in a client so that an adequate solution is made in advance, thereby avoiding a negative outcome.  

The program consists of five courses, each focusing on different interpersonal skills such as observation and critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, communication, flexible thinking and problem solving, and empathy and compassion.  

“I really think it’s going help PSWs to evaluate where their strengths are. It may even give PSWs a sense of accomplishment or a sense of confirmation that ‘yes, I am doing this right’,” adds Steele.  

According to data from Toronto Metropolitan University, some of the top in-demand skills for personal support workers are communication, teamwork, and flexibility. (Toronto Metropolitan University) Not only can these interpersonal skills be helpful in a professional way, but they can also give personal benefits too. 

“A lot of self-realizations will come out of taking the course and that’s where the power lies; self-empowerment and self-actualization can be very powerful. PSWs will feel like they’re making a difference for themselves, first and foremost, which will be passed on to the people they care for,” concludes Steele.