Jennifer Muñoz, coordinator of the personal support worker program, has been busy fielding potential student questions since Algonquin opened registration for the accelerated PSW program. Photo credit: NOMO Films

The new accelerated personal support worker program (PSW) announced for the Ottawa campus of Algonquin College and fully funded by the Ontario government is already proving to be popular.

At this time there are two start dates both with a maximum capacity of 100 students.

As of the date of publishing, the May 10 start date so far has 253 applicants, and the June 14 date has 187, according to the registrar’s office.

Jennifer Muñoz, RPN, is the PSW program coordinator at the Ottawa campus. She has been busy fielding questions about the accelerated program since registration opened March 8.

“The pandemic has highlighted the roles of a PSW,” she said. “PSWs are essential for the quality of care of our residents.

“I just want our students to know that they are so essential to the team in general,” she said. “To the family members, to the residents. Honestly, I don’t know where we would be without them.”

She said PSWs should feel proud of their role.

“It’s so demanding physically, emotionally and I completely admire PSWs from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Algonquin College and all 24 public colleges in Ontario are offering this program – part of the province’s initiative, A better place to live, a better place to work: Ontario’s long-term care staffing plan.

The overarching intention of the plan is to “modernize” the long-term care sector by hiring and retaining more staff, improving working conditions and enhancing leadership, according to the report on the ministry of health and long-term care’s (MOHLTC) website.

“At the centre of this plan is the government’s commitment to increase the hours of direct care for residents to an average of four hours per day over four years,” said the report.

To reach this goal, the sector will need to fill more than 27,000 “full-time equivalent” jobs. Partly, this includes “fast-tracking PSW education,” said the report.

Enter Algonquin College and all public colleges in Ontario.

The accelerated program allows participants to graduate with full credentials within six months, according to a Feb. 24 press release by the college.

The program is free for participants. Expenses covered include tuition, ancillary fees and other program-related costs.

To give a sense of what that means, the college’s online tuition and fees estimator calculates the Fall 2021 cost of tuition for the PSW program to be $3,901.34.

“Funds will also be available for required incidental fees, including electronic devices for online learning, textbooks, transportation, child-care and costs related to clinical placements such as uniform, care-setting-compliant footwear, immunizations and vulnerable sector police checks,” said a spokesperson for the MOHLTC in an email.

“The number one reason why I love my job and to work with the geriatric population is because of my upbringing,” said Muñoz. “My grandparents lived with me for 20 years while I was growing up. They are originally from the Philippines. They raised me for a good 20 years.

“I grew up in a household where you respect your elders. They taught me a lot about values and what it means to take care of each other. Not just as a family but as a community.”