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Nursing Care Models: Primary, Individual, and Team Nursing

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Nursing care models are frameworks that outline and organizes a nurse’s scope of care. It guides nurses in the implementation of their tasks and duties. It provides structure to their work shift amidst the sometimes-chaotic backdrop of multiple clinicians of different types giving different services and care to patients.

There have been several nursing care models developed and used over the years. Some are more popular than others in specific settings, and one that was previously almost wholly disregarded has made a remarkable comeback in the years of the pandemic. The four most prominent of them are:

  1. Individual Nursing
  2. Primary Care Nursing
  3. Functional Nursing
  4. Team Nursing

What is the Individual Nursing Care Model?

Also referred to as an individualized or personalized care model, the individual nursing care model focuses on distinguishing the individual from the group. It seeks to know, involve, and treat each patient as unique despite the likelihood of them being one of many with the same or similar diagnoses under a single nurse’s care. This model of nursing care is intended to honor and respect each patient regarding their demographics, beliefs, and values and allow them to have insight and agency in their care plan.

Under this model framework, standardized care plans for patients must be tailored specifically to the patient, taking into consideration their diagnosis and how it manifests, progresses, and regresses uniquely to each of them. 

Individualized care is often utilized in skilled nursing facilities, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care homes. This model of care intends to address not only physical care and the well-being of patients but their quality of life. Research has shown that when receiving individualized care, patients value the control they are afforded over decisions regarding their healthcare.

Professional Nursing Tips for Individualized Care

  • Invite input and collaboration from the patient and/or the patient’s family members.
  • Make your responses to questions specific to the patient instead of generalized to their condition.
  • Ensure your patient and/or their families understand their plan of care and their part.
  • Respect your patient’s individuality and dignity.

What is the Primary Nursing Model?

The analytical medical article, Work Methods for Nursing Care Delivery, defines primary care nursing as a “nurse is responsible for planning, delivering, and evaluating the care of one or more patients from admission to discharge.” This is not to indicate that the primary nurse does not have help. Typically the primary nurse will have assistance from a few other associate nurses. Nevertheless, the primary nurse assumes responsibility for the coordination of services and care, the decisions, and the supervision of the patient.

Like the individualized care model, the primary care nursing model focuses on the patient.

Tips for Primary Care Nursing

  • Communication and collaboration with associate nurses are vital to this model’s success.
  • Facilitate communication with patients and their family members about their diagnosis and care.
  • Expand your knowledge and assessment skills with continuing education to establish yourself as a competent primary care nurse.

What is the Functional Nursing Care Model?

As you may have noticed, the first two models discussed are not only patient-centered but also maximize a nurse’s skillset to perform most of the care for their patient. Alternatively, the functional nursing care model is task-driven and seeks to optimize nurse and clinician efficiency.

This nursing care model was utilized during WWII and has faced stark criticism. The most prominent complaints argue this nursing care model prioritizes efficiency over the quality of care and is sometimes referred to as fragmented or even piece-meal. This model operates from a scarcity mindset, shortage of staff leading to less personalized care and more focus on simply managing specific tasks with high frequency.

What is the Team Nursing Care Model?

The team nursing care model is a bit of a hybrid of the above models in that it relies upon the delegation of tasks to appropriate clinicians and unlicensed support staff but retains a team leader nurse who is responsible for the delegation and supervision of the care.

The team nursing model also faces criticism, similar to the functional nursing care model. Primarily, problems with appropriate and effective delegation arise. And yet, the team nursing model rose back into use when the pandemic swept across our nation. For more information about the team nursing model and how it can best be implemented in today’s medical settings to ensure a high quality of care, check out our post where we explore team nursing and the Five Rights of Delegation, which help to guide team leader nurses.

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

SEO Content Marketing Administrator Miranda has been a registered nurse since 2007 and has a healthy background in travel nursing, healthcare IT, and digital marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar SEO content management and copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Bolivia, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her spending time with her family traveling in the Andes Mountains.

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