Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Arms and Legs....

PCAs or PSWs? What's the Difference?
It's time again. Time to hire a new Personal Care Attendant/Assistant. Sadly, one of my regular girls are moving away.
Personal Care Attendants, or Personal Care Assistants and Personal Support Workers, essentially all carry out the same duties. Yes, duties may vary depending on the company one works for, or in my case, the individual you work for. Being hired by an individual, self manager or by family members to assist one individual, is far different than being hired by a company to provide care for many clients.
Over twenty years ago, I was involved with assisting in interviews to hire for the company I
originally used the services of. They used the job title Personal Care Attendant and later changed it to,  Personal Care Assistant. It worked for me, and either of those titles are what I choose to call my girls.
Personal Support Worker or Not?
When I first became a self manager about twenty years ago, one of my first employees signed up to take the very first Personal Support Worker program at our local college. She and I initially laughed, wondering why folks would have to pay to learn something that you could learn on the job. That is how she came to work for me and how I still hire, no special certificates required. She signed up for it because her school fees were being covered by her other employer, a large home care company. As she worked through the first PSW program, she did affirm that they didn't really learn anything worth paying hundreds of dollars for. She was an exceptional individual, only 19 when I hired her. She was one of the most responsible, level headed, caring individuals I ever was blessed with, to have as a PCA. She went on to use her natural skills to continue being a care giver and become a manager for a company that provides supportive housing.
When it comes to the validity of the PSW programs that are throughout North America these days, I must say, I have learned why it it was created. Well, no one told me, I base this on what I have learned since way back then. This program was created so care giving companies, such, as seniors care homes, could have a standard when hiring. It is much easier to state that applicants must have a specific diploma. It levels the playing field and they could have a foundation to start from, knowing that all applicants would know the basics. As well, the PSW program has definitely evolved into  much more, offering more healthcare skills and knowledge that was not in the original program. It makes sense to me now, even though it didn't in the beginning.
That being said,  I still choose to consider all applicants, those with or without any healthcare training. In fact, in over twenty years, I must say that the majority of my employees have not been PSWs. It hasn't been intentional. I have had a lot of wonderful ladies of all ages, who are just interested in helping me out. They are willing to learn, able to follow directions well and are just plain great employees. My employees have been college and university students, be it Out door Recreation, Nursing, Environmental Studies...the point being when you hire your own PCAs, you can set the terms you prefer. So for me, I have hire standards, in that I seek out not certain papers, but those who are trustworthy, dependable, willing to be trained, flexible, kind and compassionate. It is what works for me.
Why do I not require PSW certificates? 
Because I have found based on my eleven years with a company that did the hiring and managing, (more on that in part two to come.) that they didn't have any set standards. It was all about the interview, about the personality, their references, the ability to learn and the desire to lend a hand and listen to the tenant's directions or needs. Carrying out tasks as if it were the person, like me doing it, enabling people again, like me, to live independently. I did criticize that this company didn't have any foundational standards or requirements and that was the reason why there were often issues with employee behaviour. After all, to me, it made sense that when you hire for many tenants or clients, that you would want to have a base requirement, hoping to obtain the best quality care possible. But, since hiring my own PCAs, I choose to go by each individual, rather than seek paper work, just the way they do/did it.

Set In Stone
My experience has been that those who already work for care providing companies, instead of individual/private hire, or those who have PSW certificates, they often are set in a pattern. Some are set in stone and some not. It makes sense that when one pays and enrols in a program such as the Personal Support Worker one, you are seeking to learn and follow the directions they give you. The ultimate goal, to obtain a job in that field. No doubt, most of those who take a program like that have a specific target. Some just want to be in charge, carrying out tasks as they were taught, and even as they want to. Many of these positions, require the initiative of the employee and not the wishes or direction of the client. This is an entire different focus and when someone like me is interviewing someone with a back ground like that, I have learned to ask the right questions. I need to discover if they would be able to handle my direction, and let go of what they have been taught. It is important that I let them know that I will need them to be my arms and legs under my direction. It may sound rather odd to some, but trust me it has been an issue. Statistically, many who are trained to work in insttuions and such, get offended when you ask them to do things in a specific way. It isn't their fault, it is just how they are wired or how they were taught.

This doesn't mean PSW certificate people don't work out for a private hiring self manager like me. It means, I just need to let them know what my expectations are and to really be specific in the interview, it is usually pretty easy to know if someone needs to be the "boss" in a sense, and just wouldn't be a suitable fit for my needs.

I don't know what it is, but, nursing students and nurses are wonderful employees. Even though they too are trained to do things a certain way, they "get" that I need them to carry out tasks the way I like.  They aren't offended if I ask them to make the bed the way I like, doing it how I would if I could....

Experience Or Not?
The question then remains about hiring PCAs, should they have experience in health care or not? Well, based on what I have experienced, it sometimes helps make the initial training period more comfortable. Only because you are physically unclothed for some tasks and it is easy to feel uncomfortable at first. Knowing they have seen it all before, makes it easier. But then, not necessarily. Seriously, it seems to be all about the personality. If someone is kind, friendly and open to giving you a hand, understanding why you need them...then being naked and depending on their help, becomes more comfortable than you realized. So the answer is, yes and no. It depends on each person. Whatever works for you, works. I can only talk about and offer advice, with what I have experience with.
Thank You To All Who Have Graced My Life
I want to say that because of so many wonderful personalities, willing hearts to help and understanding of what it means to be my "arms and legs," the physical aspect of my life has been able to happen. I am blessed by God to be able to live independently because of great ladies who make it possible. Because of their smiling faces and helpful attitude, never offended by one particular request, my life is extra blessed. :o)
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