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Being a personal support worker (PSW) is a career choice that has a challenging but very fulfilling role. Looking after and caring for the vulnerable is not inherent to many people. Exceptional people are required to play this essential role. Personal support workers help others optimize their quality of life. Like the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, the physically challenged, and a lot more. Like in any other job, individuals need the critical hard and soft skills highlighted below.

Hard Skills

1. Medical and cognitive problem knowledge

You are likely to work with the chronically ill, the disabled, and the elderly. Beware of conditions like hypertension, arthritis, heart diseases, etc., and their triggers to assist effectively. Additionally, be familiar with cognitive problems like anxiety, depression, and dementia to respond accordingly.

2. Assistance and Support

Clients and patients will need assistance and support every day. They will need help to bathe, groom, dress, and so on. You need to know the proper techniques that will help them effectively and respectfully.

3. Machinery/device operation

Some of your clients may have limited or lack mobility. Due to that, they will use special machinery like Hoyer lifts, wheelchairs, sit-to-stand lifts, etc. Have proper knowledge about their operation and maintenance.

4. Proper Documentation

Your client or patient’s needs may be subject to change, rapidly or gradually. Therefore, proper documentation of any changes is critical. It will help physicians, families, and colleagues to understand new changes and to address such needs. Be organized in your documentation.

5. Nutrition and Medical Administration

You must be able to align a patient’s nutritional needs like meals and hydration effectively. Always follow the provided medical administration directives- dosage and timings. Carry out these duties strictly as per the client’s physician or nutritionist.

Soft Skills

1. Empathy, compassion, and sensitivity

Since you will work with different people from diverse cultures, these are essential soft skills all PSW workers. Every patient has their individual story, needs, fears, and hopes. Care will mean relating with them, showing empathy, and being sensitive to patient differences.

2. Effective communication

A PSW must be able to communicate with colleagues professionally. It is essential for most of the care procedures like documentation, record keeping, and meeting participation. They must also be able to communicate with patients effectively. Some patients may have hearing impairments, limited speech, and affected verbal abilities. Therefore, connecting with such different levels is essential.

3. A sense of responsibility

You will need to follow procedures and protocols responsibly and specific routines for care, reports submission, working shifts, and a lot more. Handling yourself with responsibility will earn you respect and set you apart. Missing details may be life-threatening; therefore, perform your duties with accountability.

4. Interpersonal skills

These are the skills needed to help with effective interaction with people. You need to be a good team player, know how to collaborate, manage and resolve conflicts. Additionally, be trustworthy, show maturity, and be honest.

5. Adaptability and Flexibility

Flexibility is imperative to client care. Your clients will be different, and each day will have new challenges. Due to that, you need to step into each one’s shoes accordingly and customize solutions for their various needs. Often, you may be called in to fill for unplanned and last-minute shifts even where there is the choice for shifts. You may also need to work nights and weekends. 

Be flexible enough and ready to adapt to situational changes for the well-being of your patient(s), client(s), and colleagues.

6. Attention to detail

PSWs should be able to notice and report any patient/client changes regarding health and behavior. As you follow care plans, you must observe every detail to offer the best care. You need the ability to recognize any risks or even abuse firsthand to keep patients healthy and safe. Furthermore, you should be able to identify any unique patient situations and remain calm. For example, anger, confusion, fear, and lack of cooperation.

Final Thoughts

Being a personal support worker is a career that will allow you to make a difference in your client’s or patient’s life. For the most part, you are responsible for them. If you feel this job is for you, the hard and soft skills highlighted above will play a significant role in helping you succeed in the profession.