PSWs love what they do and show leadership by serving
Graham Bashford is the president of Castle Keep Retirement in Lindsay, which provides a broad range of supports for seniors to allow them to live at home for as long as possible, including housekeeping, personal support, and even outdoor maintenance.
Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and caregivers are an intricate part of health care for any age, and indeed are overworked and underpaid for the responsibility we hold.
But the decision to serve others should not be taken lightly; it’s a commitment, not only to those you serve, but to those you serve with. If we are to assist 13 seniors out of bed each morning and our fellow PSW calls out sick, then our workload can quickly nearly double, affecting patient care in some settings.
Gone are the days when an executive director works the floor to help out, and the divide between management and the front line seems to be growing more and more as long-term care facilities pop up in our region. I’ve witnessed general managers get a tray service for lunch brought to their office while residents await the meal they pay over $4,000 a month to receive, begging the question why don’t more PSWs strive to climb the corporate ladder?
I believe that unless you are inspired to be a good leader you don’t want to become a leader or manager, because we don’t want the job if that’s how it has to be. We as caregivers inspire one another, and most of us would do whatever it takes to not let a fellow co-worker down. We at Castle Keep pride ourselves on ‘servant leadership’ (as outlined by thought leader Robert Greenleaf). It promotes a better work environment, creates a more engaged team, and in turn better serves seniors. It isn’t a new concept by any means, in fact it can even be found as far back as in the Gospel of Mark 10, verse 45.
But what happened to the servant leader?
We’re very ‘word and action’ sensitive for this very reason, as servant leadership is something you have to consciously practice every day. We don’t have ‘staff,’ which makes me think of bouncers at night clubs with the yellow STAFF stamped on the back of their T-shirts. We don’t use phrases like ‘my clients’ as no one owns a beloved senior they serve. It’s not ‘my company’ it’s ‘our company.’ We are a team as each of us is needed whether full time, part time, or casual. The company can’t function without all of us.
I always wondered why housekeepers in facilities I managed were consistently the most underpaid, while they too have very difficult and demanding jobs. Our company values each team member equally and we are all paid equal amounts making sure that not one person feels undervalued, as the company grows we all will personally grow, both monetarily and in experience.
Some feedback from previous articles suggested that all private companies are about the bottom line only. And I’m sure this can be true in some instances, but Castle Keep did not break even until year five of operation and as the owner I did not draw a salary for over two years when building the company, all the while trying to stay true to the core values and culture we boast about today. I am still not the highest earner with Castle Keep, and rightfully so. I don’t want to work 10 hour night shifts anymore, but PSWs who do tend to earn more than the rest of us, as a 40 hour work week can be complete by a Thursday at 7 am.
The fact is that we PSWs love what we do, but we also truly love each other. We make a fuss over one another’s birthday, leave thoughtful notes for each other, and God forbid smile and laugh and enjoy each other at work. A working environment that demands us to care for others leaves little room for us to complain about our lives. When you are serving a 90 year-old, trust me, they have experienced far more challenges than most of us can imagine.
When asked if we can stay an extra hour or two until a replacement can be found for the next shift, we always stay to help, and unlike other professions we answer our phone on our day off for fear a senior may needs us or the team may be working short. We as caregivers should celebrate that we cannot be replaced by computers or self-check outs. Our unique skillsets and caring natures can never be duplicated.