Master of Arts
Geography and Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on the healthcare system globally, with healthcare workers (HCWs) facing several unprecedented challenges. Within the health workforce in Canada, personal support workers (PSWs) play an integral role, notably in providing care for vulnerable populations such as the elderly. The focus of this study was to understand the impact that stigma, labelling and intersectionality had on producing challenges among immigrant PSWs from Windsor, Ontario and surrounding areas. Drawing data from in-depth interviews (n=25), the findings demonstrated that immigrant PSWs faced many challenges during the pandemic, including being stigmatized, being treated poorly by employers and co-workers, workplace safety issues, financial concerns, and stress and anxiety related to family. Overall, the findings revealed that minorities face disproportionate disadvantages in times of crisis. Therefore, the findings from this study could be used to develop policies to better prepare minority groups such as immigrant PSWs for future pandemics.
Summary for Lay Audience
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians were able to work remotely, however, those working in jobs that were considered ‘essential’ were required to work in-person in high-risk conditions. Personal support workers (PSWs) were a type of ‘essential’ worker who faced significant disadvantages during the pandemic, being the lowest paid health workers in Ontario, working in high-risk conditions often performing tasks that are beyond their basic training. Many immigrants are PSWs, making up approximately 41.2% of the PSW workforce in Ontario. They have strong skill sets because they are often overqualified from being trained as nurses or physicians in their home countries, but their qualifications are not recognized in Canada, and thereby leaving them to take lower-paying jobs as PSWs. When the pandemic began and PSWs were labelled ‘essential’, reflecting the high-risk nature of their job, they were stigmatized by society because they were often exposed to the COVID-19 virus in the workplace, leading to them facing numerous challenges. Immigrant PSWs faced a disproportionate number of disadvantages during the pandemic, because of several factors including their occupation, immigration status and extended and immediate family roles. Therefore, the goal of this study was to better understand the challenges faced by immigrant PSWs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the Canadian population is continuing to age and immigrant PSWs are critical to healthcare delivery for older adults, we must better understand the challenges they face. The findings from this study could be used to help develop policies to better prepare for future pandemics, especially among minority groups such as immigrant PSWs that face disproportionate disadvantages in times of crisis.
Talbot, Quinn, "Understanding the Challenges Experienced by Immigrant Personal Support Workers (PSWs) during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from Windsor, Ontario" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9578.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Available for download on Sunday, August 31, 2025