Shortage of personal support workers 'going on for years,' says nurse

A former personal support worker says staffing problems at long-term care facilities across the province are nothing new.

Ashley Hopkins was a PSW for over a decade before becoming a registered nurse

A former personal support worker and a long-term care facility resident say the homes are understaffed. (CBC )

A former personal support worker says staffing problems at long-term care facilities across the province are not new.

Ashley Hopkins, who was a PSW from 2005 until around 2016, said residents get neglected "by default."

"Because they just don't have the staff or the time to provide the proper care that the residents need and require," she said. She is now a registered nurse.

But why the shortage? Hopkins thinks it might be funding related.

"Plus there's a lot of high turnover in those types of jobs cause the job is just so stressful and workers get burnt out at alarming rates," she said.

Even though Victor Maurice gets excellent care at his nursing home, he says the shortages are still there. 2:34

One example she gave was one worker being on the floor for two hours, having to take care of thirty residents alone.

When the facility is staffed as such, things like getting all the residents to shower in the morning and other hygiene care will get missed.

Declining enrolment

At St. Clair College, the personal support worker program has seen declining enrolment over the past few years. This January intake there have only been 60 students enrolled in Windsor, compared to 80 to 90 in previous years.

Victor Maurice says he receives excellent care, but he sees staff being overworked. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Chair of the School of Nursing at the college, Linda Watson, said challenges of the job and low enrolment numbers can't really be correlated.

According to Watson, the scope of the job has expanded, along with the workload.

She said there is some exhaustion on the job, especially in long-term care, but some graduates are happy and many are moving straight into full-time work after finishing the program.

"They've got great qualifications and great skills and they want to do the best job they possibly can," said Watson.

"So I think if they're feeling a little bit short for time it can make them feel a little bit frustrated in the job that they're doing."

Linda Watson says enrolment has gone down for the personal support worker program at St. Clair College. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Victor Maurice who lives in a long-term care home in east Windsor, said even though his facility is the best one he's in, he sees those staffing challenges.

"I notice sometimes they're almost being run off their feet, trying to take care of everybody," he said. 

In response, Hopkins said that has been "going on for years."

According to Amy Sworik, a registered nurse and administrator at Heron Terrace, whenever there is additional funding, it's allocated for PSWs.

She said the facility has one PSW per 15 residents on nights and one per seven to 10 during days.

Sworik, along with Hopkins and Maurice, want a legislated minimum staff-to-resident ratio in the province.

"Once you're on the floor, like you're running like a chicken with their head off. There's just so many residents, with so many needs," said Hopkins. "It's a really tough job."

A spokesperson with Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the government is broadly consulting with partners in health care and that the government is working on developing "a long-term transformational health strategy."

With files from Katerina Georgieva


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