For a personal support worker in a nursing home in Norfolk County, Ontario, every day is blurred. There should be at least six PSWs on each floor where she works, but for many days, there are only three or four.
“We are always understaffed… which means that residents are not getting the proper care they deserve,” said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “You rush over to wake them up for breakfast and lunch… You are too busy and run all day. At the end of the day, I have nothing.
“It’s heartbreaking because they [like] Your family, you never want to go home and do this to your family. “
Two local PSWs who spoke to CBC Hamilton said that PSWs were exhausted by heavy manual work in understaffed units-a problem that started long before the pandemic, but was exacerbated by its demand.
Vivian Stamatopoulos, a long-term care advocate and researcher who teaches at the Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, said this is a problem that has serious consequences for the people they care for and the workers themselves.
She said: “For decades, this system has been neglected and the situation is getting worse,” she pointed out that during the pandemic, 13 PSWs have died in Ontario. “Who wants to work in a position that you can’t win?
“These workers went through hell in the first and second waves.” Then many of them said, “‘Go to hell, I work at Starbucks.'”
No luck complaining to management
Norfolk PSW, who works in a public facility, said that she has expressed concerns about the working environment to the management, but unfortunately.
“If we have a complaint about something, we are always sent to the next person,” she said. “We did not get the support we needed from our caregivers, nor did we get the support we deserved from the management… This is almost the norm now, when you walk in, it will will be [awful]. You shouldn’t feel that way. “
She said that at the age of 39, her physical stress exceeded her job share, which has caught up with the mental and emotional stress she copes with every day.
“You keep bending over, turning over, lifting weights, pushing heavy wheelchairs,” she said, adding, “A lot of people seem to have changed careers around the age of 10.”
Hospital PSW also faces burnout
Jen Cuthbert of PSW at Brantford General Hospital said her colleagues in the hospital system felt the pressure of low staffing levels.
“Burnout is huge,” she said. “We have started [before COVID] In the absence of manpower. “
On the day of talking with CBC Hamilton in mid-July, Cuthbert had just completed a weekend shift, and her team was short of two staff members.
“You start with the minimum requirements. Once you receive a sick leave call, you are releasing the water,” she said. On her floor at night, there was only one PSW shift to 25 recovered patients. “Recently, it was just crazy at night… Our facility has started hiring clinical assistants, they are PSW and nursing students who have not yet been certified… But we still have a shortage.”
LTC residents receive approximately 2.5 hours of care per day
Stamatopoulos said that long-term care residents in Ontario receive about 2.5 hours of help a day on average due to chronic understaffing, while experts in the field recommend 5 to 7 hours. The Ontario government has promised to implement the four-hour daily care standard within a few years, but Stamatopoulos said this should be implemented immediately to force houses to hire more people.
As a community, you are always “just” a PSW. In the past few weeks, many of my family members told me several times. This is a lack of respect.-Just Cuthbert
A sort of Provincial research released last summer According to the report, 50% of PSW leave healthcare facilities within five years, and 43% leave long-term care facilities due to burnout due to “short working hours”.
Our province recently launched A program to train up to 8,200 new PSWs, But Stamatopoulos said that if there is no more systemic change, they are unlikely to stay in office for a long time.
Cuthbert is not surprised that people leave, and said that part of the reason is the lack of respect for the work done by PSW in certain workplaces and in society at large.
‘We are the cockroaches of healthcare’
“We are the cockroaches of healthcare…or ants, or even aphids,” she said. “We are seen as uneducated, sometimes lazy…not very dedicated, not open to ideas or science.
“As a community, you are always’just’ a PSW. In the past few weeks, many of my family members have told me this. This is a lack of respect.”
Both Cuthbert and Norfolk workers said they saw a lack of respect in recent public discussions about whether PSW vaccinations should be forced. Both of them were vaccinated by themselves, but said that many colleagues strongly believe that vaccination is a personal choice, and may use compulsory vaccination as the last straw to crush them.
“We didn’t get paid well,” Cuthbert said. “The risk of our work is relatively high. I think it does violate our rights because they are now depriving them of the right to choose.”
Vaccines are still controversial in PSW
The Norfolk employee believes that less than half of her colleagues have been vaccinated, and she said it is difficult to talk about it at work.
“We try not to talk too much, because it just excites everyone,” she said. “Some people say it’s their personal choice. They didn’t get the flu vaccine, so why did they get it? Others said it came too soon and they didn’t believe it. Others didn’t want it because they just didn’t want it… if If I don’t work where I work, I might not be vaccinated.”
Across the province, PSW vaccination rates have increased significantly in recent weeks. According to data from the Long-term Care Department, as of Monday, 93% of long-term care home staff had received the first dose, and approximately 88% of employees had received two vaccinations. On May 31, only 66% of people had two injections, while 89% had one injection.
Ian da Silva, director of operations of the Ontario PSW Association, said that the remaining hesitation and long-term burnout may be related to this.
“You are talking about overworked labor. They may have a few minutes to read the news every day,” he said. “Where did they get their information?”