Certificate in Advanced Interpersonal Skills for PSW Practice

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Program Description

Personal support workers (PSWs) play a critical role in the health care team, and in ensuring that quality of life is maintained for the persons in their care. Advanced interpersonal skills are essential to PSW practice—they help to build connection with clients and colleagues, enhance the ability to adapt to new situations, and support personal and professional resiliency.

The Certificate in Advanced Interpersonal Skills for PSW Practice strengthens skills in the following areas to support PSWs in deepening their practice: 

  • observation and critical thinking
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • communication
  • flexible thinking and problem solving
  • empathy and compassion

Through practical application and critical reflection, you will grow your ability to respond proactively and creatively to the complex care needs of your clients and the challenges of a demanding work environment, while developing transferrable skills that are highly desirable to employers in all sectors.

This fully online, asynchronous, instructor-led program consists of five micro-credentials that are five weeks each in length. Upon the completion of each micro-credential, you will earn a digital badge that can be shared with current and future employers to convey the skills that you have developed. By completing all five micro-credentials, you will earn a Certificate in Advanced Interpersonal Skills for PSW Practice from the University of Guelph.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, you will be able to:

  • Critically analyze unfamiliar situations and develop an appropriate plan of action
  • Implement strategies to create successful relationships within multi-disciplinary teams
  • Demonstrate effective communication across a variety of situations, including with clients, families, and team members
  • Develop creative solutions to challenging workplace scenarios
  • Apply approaches to build and maintain compassion and empathy for clients, team members and self


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Project Background

Personal support workers (PSWs) form the backbone of the long-term care (LTC) and community care sectors, which are facing a critical shortage in the PSW workforce.

PSWs work with populations whose needs continue to become more complex over time. There is a gap between the training they receive and the reality of their work environments, with little opportunity to engage in continuing education to gain the additional skills necessary to meet the demands of employers and the care needs of their clients. PSWs also experience burnout, lack of job satisfaction, and lack of recognition as full members of the care team (MLTC, 2020).

A skilled PSW workforce equipped to provide quality care within a highly demanding, complex care environment will require the development of new skills that extend beyond traditional PSW training programs. While efforts are underway to increase the number of learners entering PSW training programs, burnout and poor retention rates need to be addressed for these efforts to be successful. Building skills that foster resiliency within the workplace is one part of a broader systemic solution.

A recent study examining staffing within the LTC sector by the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care (MLTC) recommended increased training opportunities for PSWs as a means of upskilling, improving job satisfaction and retention of the workforce, specifically using micro-credentials (MLTC, 2020).

In response to this recommendation, the University of Guelph (U of G), St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph, and the Canadian PSW Network have partnered to develop an innovative, online, stackable micro-credential program designed to quickly upskill the PSW workforce with the essential interpersonal skills they need to be resilient in a highly-demanding work environment. Building PSW confidence and capacity to respond to complex care situations will help to improve job satisfaction and retention within the sector while advancing the quality of care in our communities.

opening quotation mark.  At St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph, we believe there is a leader in every team member. We are thrilled to work with partners to bring a program that provides an opportunity for practical learning that PSWs can apply immediately in their work and enable them to lead from where they are. PSWs are an integral part of the health care team. They make a meaningful difference in the lives of many and their compassion, resilience, teamwork and problem-solving capabilities are key in their leadership role in this complex and ever-changing world. Our hope is that, through this program, PSWs will learn and grow from each other and from the experience the program provides.  closing quotation mark.

Sandra Ramelli | Vice-President, People and Strategy at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph.

opening quotation mark.  Like any skilled workforce, our membership of PSWs have long voiced their interest in quality professional development as their role as key members of the health care team evolves. As the need for highly trained personal support workers permeates our community, acute, and long-term care sectors, the Canadian PSW Network has been committed to expanding advanced educational opportunities and partnerships for the PSW community to meet that need. The values and guiding principles in this micro-credential program speak to the vision and commitment partners like the University of Guelph and St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph have made to the profession of PSWs.  closing quotation mark.

Lynn Steele | Founder and CEO of The Canadian PSW Network

opening quotation mark. Open Learning and Educational Support at the University of Guelph is committed to designing and developing courses and programs that not only respond to labour market demands, but also have real-world impact within our community. This micro-credential program will be developed in collaboration with partners representing both the PSW profession and long-term care sector, to ensure the curriculum provides students with the tools they need to be confident and successful in their work.  closing quotation mark.

Michelle Fach | Executive Director, OpenEd

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This project is funded by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.