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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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Personal Support Workers -- Case Studies, Health Care Delivery


Personal support workers (PSW) are caregivers for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) or adults experiencing mental illness or other behavioral health conditions. The work can be very meaningful, but many PSWs must prepare for, monitor, and manage challenging behaviors, including aggression. This study was designed to estimate the prevalence of aggression experienced by PSWs in Oregon, and compare it to a previous sample of Oregon home care workers (HCWs). This comparison included an analysis of relationships between exposures to aggression and psychological health factors. PSWs in Oregon (N = 240) were surveyed electronically at a single time point. PSWs generally reported higher rates of exposure to aggression compared to HCWs. Experiences with aggression were positively associated with fatigue and weakly associated with depression, but not stress. PSWs’ self-reported lost work time injury rate was elevated compared to the US average, but it was comparable to previous self-reported injury rates from HCWs. Physical demands of work were the most prevalent reported primary safety concern, followed by challenging behaviors (including aggression). Developing tailored training to help PSWs understand, plan for, minimize, and manage challenging behaviors is a social priority.


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