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When do I need a nurse vs. a personal support worker?

“I need a nurse,” is what Gaye Moffett often hears when she picks up the phone.

But a nurse may not be the level of care you or your loved one needs right now to live comfortably at home for as long as possible.

So how do you know you’re getting the right level of care? 

In Ontario, the first step is to call 310-2222 (no area code required) to find the Home and Community Care Support Service provider in your area.

They’ll assign a case manager to assess your situation and determine whether you need a nurse or personal support worker. Once that’s done you can top up your eligible hours with a family-funded provider like GEM.

Here’s what to expect from the professionals who will be helping you. 

When you need a nurse

As a rule, you don’t need a nurse unless you are acutely ill or injured, or have a chronic condition that requires ongoing nursing support, like having a peg tube that needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent infection.

While there are two types of nurses — registered nurses (RNs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) — you can rest assured that they’re all registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario. 

For the most part they carry out the same duties, but RNs are typically responsible for planning and monitoring care, while RPNs carry the plan out. 

Care plans could include administering medications, wound care, changing dressings, monitoring blood pressure, administering oxygen therapy and collecting specimens. 

When you need personal support 

Personal support workers, home support workers, and companions are the people who help you live in your home independently, while lowering the risk of illness or injury that could land you in the hospital.

Personal support workers (PSWs) are college-trained, certified professionals who help people with their activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing and dressing. Sounds simple, but knowing how to transfer someone safely in and out of the tub with a lift requires specific training.

Home support workers (HSWs) are also certified and trained in their field, and assist in all facets of home management, including meal preparation, light housekeeping, and assistance with shopping.

Companions who work for GEM must complete the company’s training course. Sitters ensure the safety and security of a client by assisting with all levels of companionship, emotional support and activity attendance. They are able to accompany a resident to and from appointments and record information as required.

In a world where it’s clear most people want to live at home, and delivering care at home is the most cost effective option for our health system, calling on GEM to make it possible could be the option for you and your family. Call (613) 761-7474 to learn more.