How to Develop a Relationship with Your Personal Support Worker

Female Nurse Posing

Posted by Steve Jones

Thu, Dec 26, 2013

A Personal Support Worker (PSW) provides many layers of care for elderly clients. Between helping with personal hygiene, administering medication and household cleaning, a PSW can be involved in almost every facet of a client’s life. That’s why it’s important to develop a solid relationship with PSWs working around the home and in care facilities.

Striking the Proper Balance

First and foremost, PSWs have a duty to deliver the best possible care and services while on the job. The additional role of all support workers is to grow, support and solidify the existing family, social and community network of an elderly patient.

That being said, every workplace setting is easier and more enjoyable if PSWs and clients like the people they work with/for. One of the best and most appropriate courses of action is to think of a PSW like a co-worker. The two involved parties, the patient and the personal support worker, work together on the patient’s day-to-day health and well-being.

Make sure hired care workers have the following qualities to ensure a good working relationship:

  • Good communication and listening skills
  • Ability to consult/plan with others
  • Respect for the choices, beliefs, needs, values and cultures of other people
  • Commitment to healthcare and increasing the independence of patients
  • Willingness to teach PSW knowledge and skills
  • A positive attitude
  • Consistency of performed duties
  • Professionalism

In some cases, a personal support worker will be more present in the life of a patient than family or friends. In those cases, some elderly patients can start to treat PSWs as they treat close members of their family.

Working so closely together, its understandable that the two “co-workers” would become close, bordering on friendship, but similarly to an office setting, that friendship comes with professional boundaries. For example, if a personal support worker is working in the home during a family celebration, such as a birthday, it is appropriate to include them in the festivities, but inappropriate to expect them to engage in gift-giving.

It’s also appropriate to take an interest in a PSW’s professional and personal life, to a degree. Even though the PSW technically works for the patient it is important for casual conversation to operate on a two-way street. Inquiring about simple things such as family, movies, and other interests creates the basis for a working relationship without getting into personal or intimate details of each others lives.

Use the following tips to set limits on your relationship to ensure a healthy professional “friendship”:

  • Discuss roles with the PSW right from the start so expectations are met without any confusion. This also creates a dialogue that allows both PSW and patient to make the work environment as comfortable as possible.
  • If concerns about the frequency or quality of work performed arises, have a conversation with the PSW about expectations moving forward. Ensure you do so in a polite and encouraging manner to maintain a good working relationship.
  • Perform regular reviews of a PSWs work. Make sure to give credit and show appreciation when a job is well done.
  • Avoid engaging in subjects that could create divisions between PSWs and patients. Politics, religion and intimate family details can potentially cause disagreements that could lead to problems in the home or care facility.
  • Ask for assistance when and where it’s needed. A PSW can’t always anticipate the needs of a patient so a simple request can go a long way.

More often than not, an open dialogue, a little flexibility and established guidelines can make any relationship between a personal support worker and their client effective and long-lasting.


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