Aimee is a Personal Support Worker who who has been working in the field for over 20 years. She is a single mother who has figured out how to double her income. After 15 years of struggling with an average annual salary of $30,000 and a bureaucratic agency system that did not value her work, Aimee began to believe there had to be a better way. Knowing that patients wanted better care, that the industry is growing with people wanting to stay home longer, and understanding the funding system Aimee decided she could be better off by working independently.
This was not an easy decision. Within the agency world, everything was organized and Aimee just had to show up and do the work. But, that world had Aimee struggling to make ends meet and it did not enable her to provide they quality of care she enjoyed providing.
Aimee moved towards working independently
She started by picking up a few clients on the side. She did these evenings and weekends and then 5 years ago she picked a name, ensured all her certifications were in order, got insurance and launched her own company.
She invested in networking and marketing herself. She grew her relationships with agencies, reached out to people she had previously worked with, as well as individuals from organizations that provided funding opportunities such as insurance companies, personal injury lawyers and government funded programs like the passport program. She listed her company with CCAC’s and developmental services.
Aimee identified which populations she wanted to focus on and started going to hub meetings and drop in sessions targeted at these individuals. She created weekly day programs and organized outings at local centres or churches to both service her targeted population and increase her connection with possible clients.
On an ongoing basis, she has to supplement her actual personal support work with her marketing efforts and business management. She is acutely aware of how many clients she needs to service monthly to hit her salary targets. She continuously works to build and maintain her relationships. If for some reason, she loses a client, she actively invests in finding another, positing on kijiji, visiting nursing homes, and or reaching out to her existing relationships.
Overall she absolutely loves her new world. From a pay perspective, she charges the same rate as agencies, so between $30 & $40 and effectively makes double what she used to make. She finds that families appreciate having a higher consistency, continuity and quality of care than is typically provided in the agency world.
She also loves her job so much more. She gets to build stronger relationships with her clients. In most cases she is part of the family, a genuine companion. Aimee loves having control and flexibility over her schedule. She finds she is able to do a lot of things agencies cannot do – she can provide a tailored service. She does have to work evenings and weekends and does her best to accommodate clients but she has control over when this happens.
In her new world, Aimee finds that clients are much happier. As she is not struggling to meet the allotted time for a bath or to figure out how to make ends meet, Aimee has more brain space to be truly present and give.
Aimee feels like “she won the lottery”. She values the experience she received from the agencies she worked at previously. Her knowledge and practical skills were definitely built within this environment. That being said, she is delighted with her choice 5 years ago.
Now Aimee gets to enjoy her profession, the relationships she builds and the positive response from families. And her clients get better care.
Aimme is a positive outlier. She has figured out success within a system where care is often rushed to meet allotted time buckets and most of the over 100,000 personal support workers in Ontario, struggle to make ends meet, earning an average salary of $32,590.
How might other PSW's replicate Aimee's success? And if more PSW's did shift to independent work, might we be able to transition personal support work to an industry where workers are valued and given the time and space needed to bring meaningful connection, and higher quality of comfort, relief and support to patients?
 Ontario won’t regulate personal care workers, CBC News, April 2010 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-won-t-regulate-personal-care-workers-1.907601
 glassdoor; https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/personal-support-worker-salary-SRCH_KO0,23.htm