PSW demand so great free bursary is created

PSW program coordinator Linda Tracey, left, and students Krista Poss, Miranda Stilwell and Alyssa Cook with Larry the mannequin used in the PSW education program at Fanshawe where students can get a bursary that could potentially cover their entire tuition. Susan Gamble/Postmedia Network

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The great need for more personal support workers in Ontario led the local LHIN to create a free bursary that will virtually pay for an eligible student’s tuition in Fanshawe’s PSW program.

Students visiting the campus for the annual open house on Saturday were told about the financial opportunity and the chance to get into a program where employment is all but guaranteed.

“There are so many job opportunities,” said Alyssa Cook, a student who is part-way through the program.

Cook and other students attended the day to chat with potential students and their families about Fanshawe’s various programs.

“In the PSW program, you do a placement and you can get a job right afterwards.”

Along with classroom education, students in the PSW program do about 200 hours of work in a long-term care facility and another 120 hours in some sort of community setting, such as home visits.

“If you get along well wherever you are placed, they usually just want to keep you,” agreed Miranda Stilwell, who is also in the program.

Because of that high demand, the South West Local Health Integration Network has set up a bursary for those looking for work in Norfolk, Oxford, Bruce, Elgin, Grey, Huron, Middlesex and Perth.

Students with a confirmed financial need can get full tuition costs up to a maximum of $5,000 without having to repay the funding.

“This is such an important role,” said Donna Gates, Fanshawe’s associate dean in Simcoe.

“I want really good people in the field and this is designed to encourage that.”

Applicants for the bursary have until mid-January to try for the bursary as classes begin in the new year, and are expected to work within one of the LHIN’s counties for a year after graduation.

Right now, Fanshawe’s PSW program co-ordinator, Linda Tracey, is overseeing a graduating class of 2019.

“But if I had 50 students I could find jobs for all of them,” said Tracey.

“The need is there. I get emails at least twice a month from agencies asking me to let my students know they are hiring.”

Tracey said there may even be some funding in the bursary for books and scrubs.

“Conceivably, if a person brought their lunch and could walk to school, it wouldn’t cost them a thing.”

Tracey, who had a long career as a community PSW, said high school students tend to dismiss the idea of becoming a PSW, despite the fact the workers get jobs with ease and are considered a critical part of the healthcare system.

“PSWs spend more time with clients than any other healthcare staff. They are the eyes and ears of healthcare and the most front-line workers. It’s so rewarding.”

For more information about the PSW bursary program, go to