A True Helping Profession: Personal Support Worker to Disability Services Co-ordinator

For this week’s blog post, I had the pleasure of interviewing a “Personal Support Worker” who assists adult clients with disabilities in different group homes. This employee previously worked at a Food Bank that also had an after- school program for impoverished youth. In this role, they mainly prepared meals for young children, helped them with their homework, and did activities with them. The main duties and responsibilities of a Support Worker include helping clients with a variety of tasks- from personal care including showering and changing, to attending appointments and doing fun activities like going to the movies. Most importantly, a Support Worker acts a voice for someone who cannot speak. The clients in the group homes this employee works in have intellectual and physical disabilities, and the Support Worker is responsible for their well-being.

What’s it Really Like?

The atmosphere in this role is often changing, as the Support Worker attends to clients in different locations and works day shifts, evening shifts, or overnight shifts on a rotating schedule. This role provides flexibility as the Support Worker operates along with the client’s daily needs, whether that consists of staying home, or going out for the day. Their coworkers are described as being positive, humble, and kind-hearted people. With that being said, the strongest workplace value this type of work holds was said to be “Working for a good cause and playing an active role in the community. Not everyone would be willing to do what Support Worker’s do”. Outside of this, it was mentioned that this type of work does provide a pension, benefits, and job security- Support Workers are always in demand!

This employee’s interest in the field was initially sparked by a passion for helping others and advocating for those who cannot always advocate for themselves. Qualities such as being genuine, compassionate, and patient would make someone successful in this role. Additionally, it is important to be a ‘giving’ person, as the work you are doing must be done unconditionally. Lastly, it is important to always treat others how you would want to be treated. Alternatively, another aspect of this role is being able to assist clients even on bad days. Some clients occasionally display behaviours that can be challenging to work with, such as outbursts of anger, sexual related issues, and depressive moods. This can be stressful for both the client and Support Worker, however does not occur often. When the employee was asked what was most personally satisfying about this role, they answered “Everything about this job brings me great satisfaction. I love going to work every day, and I love bringing joy to these people”.

Industry Trends & Advice

For someone interested in this role, a typical career path in this industry begins with being a front line worker, which consists of directly assisting clients with their day to day lives and advocating for them. Next, front line workers can move up to become team leaders, and then join management. Lastly, workers in management roles are eligible to become directors of the agency. The population is aging, and the current governments plan of action for healthcare are factors that can impact the way Support Workers do their job within the next 5 years. However, this can indicate that there will be more positions available for this type of role. If a Support Worker was interested in changing positions within the field, they would be prepared to work in another agency of group homes, long term care residences, or do private support work in client’s homes.

If you are considering pursuing a career as a Support Worker, it is encouraged to take a Social Service Work (SSW) or Developmental Services Work (DSW) program at the College level. Next, it would be beneficial to gain experience working with clients with disabilities in a residential home, or group home setting. Upon completing this, if you are interested in continuing your career to become a director, or Disability Services Coordinator, it is encouraged to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Lastly, in consideration to the aging population, it would also be beneficial to seek out courses relating to gerontology or public health.

More on Disability Services Coordinator’s

If you were interested in advancing your career into the position of a Disability Service’s Coordinator, you could expect to be working closely with management to plan, organize, direct, and coordinate care services. Additionally, you could expect to evaluate Support Workers to monitor that clients are receiving adequate care, and to ensure that routines and protocols are being followed. In some cases, you may also respond to client or family member’s concerns, and ensure appropriate actions are taken as you hold decision-making authority. As a coordinator, you may also be involved in ensuring Support Workers receive special training depending on client needs, balancing the budget, and attending or holding meetings with staff.

Some important qualities that would make someone successful in this role include having effective verbal and written communication, the ability to follow health and safety procedures, and a respect for confidentiality. Also, willingness to be flexible in modifying client care or Support Worker tasks, and the ability to counsel and support staff in any issues they may bring to your attention is also important to this role.

Final thoughts…

Upon being asked if they could do it all over again, “would they choose the same path?”, they replied “I would end up here. This is where I am supposed to be and I couldn’t be more grateful”. Lastly, the best piece of advice this Support Worker has heard throughout their career is to “Work hard. If you do this, you can accomplish anything” They shared that they obtained a full-time position very quickly by embodying this mantra and bringing it into their work, and demonstrating their commitment to the well-being of their clients.