It is a care model that uses the division of labor according to specific task and technical aspects of the job. It has been defined as work assignment by functions or tasks, such as passing medicines, doing dressing changes, giving baths, or taking vital signs. Under functional nursing, the nurse identifies the tasks to be done for a shift. The work is divided and assigned to personnel, who focus on completing the assigned task. Functional nursing has the advantage of being efficient for taking care of the tasks related to handing a large number of clients.
Functional nursing was the norm in US hospitals from the late 1800s through the end of World War II. Functions such as increases in clients’ acuity, greater complexity of care delivery, and expansion of the number of paying clients increased demand for hospital nursing services. As hospitals searched for ways to improve efficiency and service yet control labor costs, the functional division of tasks was instituted to get the work done. Cyclical shortages of nursing labor, exacerbated during times of war, accelerated staffing shortages and the demands of work. This organization of work, combined with frequent understaffing, forced nurses to be task-oriented rather than client oriented. It was a major reason why graduate nurses dislike staff nursing as compared with private duty.
In the early 1900s, business and industry concepts of “scientific management” emphasized efficiency. The efficiency was gained by breaking down a work process into its component task steps and then analyzing and timing the steps, establishing standards, and determining the best way to perform each task. Thus managerial control over the planning and execution of work could be established. Assembly lines in factories were one result. Functional nursing was developed as a result of this concern for task analysis and proper division of the nursing workload. Under this model,...