Functional Nursing: Definition, Advantages And Disadvantages

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The functional type of nursing, also known as task nursing, is a nursing model that encourages collaboration and efficiency. It can ensure that every nursing assistant knows how to perform tasks such as treatment, medication and administration. If you are a professional in the healthcare industry, it is important to know about the different nursing models to ensure that individuals receive proper care. In this article, we define functional nursing, outline its advantages and disadvantages and discuss other types of nursing care models in healthcare.

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What Is Functional Nursing?

Functional nursing is a method of providing patient care in which every licensed and unlicensed staff member performs allotted tasks for a group of patients. It consists of a supervisory model instead of a single person performing all nursing-care tasks for an individual patient. It often consists of a head nurse who delegates tasks to other healthcare personnel that perform specific duties for the patients.

You can often see this model in areas where there are recurrent patients in a hospital. The nurses may perform specifically distributed tasks and achieve proficiency in those tasks through systematic repetition. The functional type of nursing attempts to enhance the patient's well-being and promotes maximising the tasks in a routine. This also results in an economically efficient nursing model when staff perform their tasks mechanically over an extended period. The primary goal of this method is to ensure that every patient gets the most important components of care.

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Other Types Of Nursing Models

Apart from the functional model of nursing, there are four other nursing care models used in healthcare facilities. Some models can prove more beneficial than others, but they give each hospital a unique method to care for its patients. The following lists the additional nursing models:

Total nursing

The total nursing care or patient care model requires the patient to receive all their nursing from one staff member. The assigned nurse ensures that the patient has all they require. Compared to functional healthcare assistance, patients may respond more positively to total nursing care because of the interaction between nurses and patients. It is a favourable model because of the availability of a nurse during emergencies. The patient may also find the experience less stressful, as they quickly begin to trust the nurse.

Team or modular nursing

Like the functional model of nursing, the team or modular nursing method focuses on providing services on a broader scale. It requires assigning a registered nurse (RN) to delegate tasks to other medical professionals. These professionals can then offer better patient care.

There are two types of nurses in this type of nursing, with different areas of experience and skills. RNs provide direct care to patients, while nursing assistants provide support to the doctors or RNs. The team nursing model effectively treats patients, as nurses may also educate their inexperienced colleagues about proper patient care.

Primary nursing

Primary nursing takes care of patients with complex medical conditions. It follows the patient's progress and provides a more holistic treatment for the patient. The staff in this model have a primary RN as their head, flexible work schedules and appreciation. It also provides nurses with a better level of job satisfaction and can enable them to provide their patients with the desired care.

Case management nursing

In the case management nursing model, there is an increased focus on healthcare administrative issues. Its delivery comes second. Factors such as evaluating patient care and determining healthcare costs and insurance coverages are the prime focus areas of case management.

An RN case manager looks after the above factors. They also track the patient's progress and care, deciding the likely discharge date. The model assists patients because of the complexities of transactions between third-party healthcare payers and the increasing costs of healthcare.

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Advantages Of Functional Nursing

Over the years, the functional model of nursing has become known as one of the most efficient methods of providing healthcare services. Because of its effective distribution of tasks, it is also a much faster method of delivering medications and intravenous fluids and checking a patient's vital signs. The following are some advantages of the functional model of nursing:

Cost-efficient distribution of tasks

The functional type of nursing follows a hierarchy. The head nurse distributes standardised tasks to specific nurses. Hiring thoroughly trained and skilled nurses for each job may not be financially feasible for hospitals that follow this model. Instead, they may enlist the help of other qualified healthcare professionals, such as orderlies.

Orderlies are hospital attendants who handle nonmedical tasks, take care of the patient and ensure cleanliness. A hospital requires fewer registered nurses if it hires orderlies. In addition, the orderlies charge significantly less than registered nurses, as they perform nonmedical tasks. This creates a cost-effective model.

Faster completion of tasks

Since the efficacy model influences this nursing model's design, it focuses on completing many tasks within a short period. Allotting only one nurse to a patient means the nurse may require performing all the duties alone. In a hospital that follows this model, you may see one nurse who is solely responsible for administering medication to all the patients. Another nurse may oversee the task of discharging patients. A treatment nurse may give all patients their diagnostic tests and deliver test results. As this is a collaborative effort, nurses may complete the tasks assigned to them faster.

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More control over work activities

As this is a task-oriented nursing model, it reduces the margin of error, as the nurses have specific training related to their job. The functional type of nursing also reduces the possibility of excessive medical attention. As nurses work within their fields of expertise, they have more control over their work activities. They have limited tasks and can avoid overexerting themselves, giving them more control over the work that they do.

Increased efficiency during periods of high demand

Healthcare providers can successfully implement this model in cases of global outbreaks or large-scale health issues threatening a significant portion of people. Assigning individual nurses to every patient during such time can be a waste of resources. A functional model may work well in this situation and prove helpful if implemented correctly.

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Disadvantages Of Functional Nursing

The following are a few disadvantages of the functional model of nursing:

Lack of holistic approach and care

Addressing a patient's physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs requires a holistic environment. Holistic care can focus on more than only completing tasks and may not limit care to a specific patient or client group, disease or setting. Holistic nurses also require adequate experience in managing multiple roles while providing patient care. In this model, nurses focus more on completing their tasks, so providing holistic care to patients in such an environment can become a problem.

Less accountability and responsibility for nurses

The functional type of nursing employs trained staff, but they may not be exclusively certified. Fluctuations in staffing patterns and discrepancies between the nurses' qualifications and stations can lead to unclear lines of responsibility. Since every nurse handles a different aspect of patient care, it can be challenging to pinpoint a particular nurse's mistake, creating a greater lack of accountability. The staff may also have difficulty developing a team environment, as individuals require completing their allotted tasks.

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Difficulty in tracking patient care

Handling communication can be challenging in the functional type of nursing model. As the staff carry out their respective duties, there may not be enough discussion regarding the patient's requirements. Lack of coordination on the team's part may lead to improper treatment and care for the patient.

The staff in this type of nursing may also not get enough time to optimise their patient care strategies, which may lead to unclear goals. A lack of continuity in the treatment or confusion within two tasks for a patient can be challenging for the patient. A lack of organisation, management and leadership personnel can also cause this nursing model to be disadvantageous.

Limited growth of the patient-nurse relationship

As this model does not assign an individual nurse to a patient, the patient may not develop a bond with their care provider. This bond based on interactions can significantly impact the patient's overall well-being. The unstable staffing pattern seen in this type of nursing can also make the process challenging. The functional type of nursing can also lead to a depersonalised form of patient care. Since the model focuses more on task completion, it can hinder the ability of the staff to provide wholesome and holistic healthcare services to their patients.

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