News April 12, 2021

Building a better future for personal support workers

  • April 12, 2021

A network of Canadian healthcare partners are working alongside personal support workers to future-proof the profession through education and advocacy.


Toronto, ON— April 12, 2021 — Today the Centre for Ambulatory Care Education (CACE), along with a network of healthcare partners, announces plans for the next phase of the CACE Homecare Curriculum; a free, education science-informed curriculum built to future-proof Canada’s personal support workers (PSWs) against health crises, while advocating for the profession. 

“When it comes to health crises, PSWs are affected in a multitude of ways. We know that PSWs are overwhelmingly women, they are often newcomers to Canada and racialized. They’re often underpaid and undervalued. They are healthcare workers at particular risk of suffering from the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Now is the time to build resources and advocacy tools in partnership with PSWs to support the future of their profession,” says Stella Ng, scientist at CACE, education scientist with The Institute for Education Research (TIER) and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Interprofessional Education (CIPE) and project lead.

The expansion of the curriculum will focus in the areas of infection prevention and control, COVID-19, as well as wellness and resilience. Adding supports for wellness and resilience to the curriculum will be especially important, as PSWs can face undue stress and burnout and they often lack the structural supports to help them. 

“Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic, but PSWs have seen the brunt of things. It’s important that we not put the onus of wellness on PSWs but address the systemic problems they face and bring it to our healthcare system leaders. We can’t ask PSWs to take care of themselves, but not provide the resources and support to do so,” shares Ng.

Although CACE Homecare Curriculum was initially built with PSW’s in mind, it has been useful for many different professions. By providing professions like occupational therapists, physical therapists and physicians access to this curriculum it has showcased the hard work that PSWs put forward daily – providing a greater appreciation for the profession. Appreciation and an understanding of the profession of personal support work is important, as society often diminishes “care work” and sees it as unskilled. This is not the case, as we know the role of a PSW can be physically-taxing and requires a unique set of interpersonal skills and medical knowledge.

“PSWs are often overlooked, so this curriculum is not just an education resource, but is being used as an advocacy tool to share with healthcare leaders. The hope is that these leaders will gain a greater appreciation for PSWs and make policy decisions to help support them moving forward,” says Ng.

Supported with $183,000 in funding from Future Skills Centre, the one-year project to expand the CACE Homecare Curriculum is a collaborative effort with a network of healthcare partners – VHA Home HealthCare, Unity Health Toronto, The Rekai Centres, the Centre for Interprofessional Education, the Michener School of Continuing Education, The Institute for Education Research (TIER) at UHN and Centre for Ambulatory Care Education (CACE) at Women's College Hospital.

All partners are currently conducting research in health professions education and health system solutions or working directly with PSWs at stages throughout their careers, so it was a natural collaboration for this next step for the CACE Homecare Curriculum.

Continuing education in any profession is important, and for PSWs it is rare. The leadership shown by updating this curriculum is supporting an unmet need and working to establish real change. 

“There is an urgent need to provide an education solution for PSWs as the pandemic continues and to combat future health crises,” says Nikki Woods, director of TIER, former director of CACE and project co-lead. “Evidence-based education, like that of CACE Homecare Curriculum, can be an incredibly powerful tool in solving our healthcare problems. Having education scientists work alongside PSWs to create these resources is the perfect storm of expertise.”

“When developing the current model of the CACE Homecare Curriculum, it was extremely important for our team to work directly with PSWs to identify gaps in resourcing,” shares Robert Paul, director of CACE. “We look forward to expanding our network of partners, providing the most useful resources and advocating for the future profession of PSWs.”

About Women’s College Hospital
For more than 100 years Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare. Today, WCH is a world leader in the health of women and Canada’s leading, academic ambulatory hospital. A champion of health equity, WCH advocates for the health of all women from diverse cultures and backgrounds and ensures their needs are reflected in the care they receive. It focuses on delivering innovative solutions that address Canada’s most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs. 

The Centre for Ambulatory Care Education (CACE) at WCH aims to improve the quality of ambulatory care through education by creating, evaluating and disseminating innovative learning tools, techniques and strategies. CACE is proud to support fellowship programs focused on ambulatory care education research, research led by CACE Scientists, mentorship programs for educational researchers and workshops in best practices in ambulatory care.

For more information about how WCH is transforming patient care and leading health system solutions, visit

Jordan Benadiba
Manager, Public Affairs | Women’s College Hospital
T: 416-323-6400 ext.3210 | E:

Katie Fraser
Communications Coordinator | Women's College Hospital
T: 416-323-6400 ext.3838 |


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