PSWs burned out, stressed and underpaid, Ontario Health Coalition report says

A new report finds there's a shortage of personal support workers across the province.

Round-table report says more work needs to be done recruiting, training new workers

A new report from the Ontario Health Coalition says PSWs are suffering an increasing number of burnouts. (Shutterstock)

A new report finds there's a shortage of personal support workers across the province.

The Ontario Health Coalition conducted round table meetings last year to collect the information.

It found most long-term care homes were short-staffed on every shift, and that was contributing to poor working conditions.

Dot Klein, the co-chair of the Sudbury chapter of the coalition, said many PSWs leave the field because they're overworked, underpaid, burned out or injured.

And there aren't the same number of workers entering the field to replace them.

Klein also adds that those PSWs just entering the workforce aren't prepared for what they'll face.

"The new graduates are not prepared for the realistic situation of the workload and the level of care that's being asked of them to provide," she said. 

"If the student isn't properly prepared and starts a job where they're suddenly in a shortage of PSWS or co-workers and they're not sure of what to do, there is nobody there to help them."

Klein said all parties need to sit down and make some "long term plans."

"We've been band-aiding for many years and now it's got to the point that we can no longer band-aid and hope that it will get better."

Rick O'Connell of Sudbury has been a personal support worker for 19 years.

He says he stays in the field because he loves the patients he cares for.

"We're seeing lots of staff burning out," O'Connell said. "Physical injuries and just burnout and overall it's contributing to the shortage of PSWs."

"Working short often, so that increases your workload and your staff-to-resident ratios," he said. "Just the daily stresses of the job is enough to deal with."

The burnout has a ripple effect on other PSWs.

"It contributes to more workers calling in sick, going off on stress leave, in general many times you just see PSWs leave long-term care."

"I've seen them go to minimum wage jobs because of the workload in long term care," O'Connel said. 

Staffing study forthcoming from ministry 

A response from the Ministry of Long Term Care said the ministry is considering 18 recommendations stemming from the Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System.

According to the statement, recommendations include the "launch of a staffing study, which will inform a comprehensive staffing strategy that we will be implementing by the end of 2020."

"One component of the staffing study will determine adequate levels of staff in long-term care, specifically addressing a key recommendation in the Public Inquiry," the statement read.

The study will attempt to identify an "optimal staffing model and skill mix," the ministry said, with a focus on improving recruitment and retention of PSWs. 

The Ontario Health Coalition is touring around the province with the report and its recommendations, and will be in Sudbury on Thursday at the Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-Op at 10:00 a.m.

With files from Angela Gemmill


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