Explaining Total Patient Care and Other Care Models

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posted by Samantha Cox on May 20, 2021

A nurse providing total patient care

When you or a loved one is in need of high-quality, ongoing care, you’ll have quite a lot of options to sift through. One key way to weed out some of those different potentials is to narrow in on one specific type of care, like total patient care. You might be interested in private home care, or you might not think staying in your home is the best idea. Maybe all you need help with are some chores around the house, or maybe you’d benefit from a more intensive method of treatment.


The right care for each of these scenarios is definitely available, and there are more options where that came from, too. Two ways to sort all these different kinds of care is by the way they are administered or by what they’re trying to achieve. Here, we’ll walk you through some of the most common models. Read through our descriptions of different care models and then consult your doctor on which would be right for you.

Total Patient Care

This care model is a favorite among patients due to the strong bonds formed between patients and nurses. With total patient care, just one nurse takes care of all the needs for each patient they’re assigned to until the end of their shift, when another nurse takes over. Those needs can include personal hygiene, emotional support, and administering medication. Nurses working in this care model might have a single patient or a group of them — total patient care can be the model of choice in either type of setting. 


Total patient care can even include 24-hour monitoring, and it’s obviously one of the most high-touch levels of care. This can make total patient care attractive to people who want a lot of interaction between themselves and their care provider, and it can also be appealing to anyone who highly values that bond.

Positives of Total Patient Care

Total patient care has plenty of positives. Like we just mentioned, since the patient only interacts with one nurse at a time, there’s a great deal of trust there. The nurse gets to know all the relevant information about the patient, and since total patient care tends to be ongoing, they’ll get to know what works and what doesn’t over time. You’ll see this mode of care delivery utilized quite a bit in private home care settings in part for this reason. Another positive here is that total patient care has a long and proven history — it dates back to the earliest days of nursing in the 1800s. 

Negatives of Total Patient Care

Not everything about total patient care is so positive, though. This model isn’t the right fit for every organization due to the high demands it places on the nurses. If the patient load gets too high, nurses can’t be as effective, and the total patient care model is not ideal. Additionally, there might be some patient needs that the nurse on duty can’t attend to. Another instance in which total patient care isn’t ideal is when indefinite care would be beneficial. Total patient care is more suited to shorter-term situations. However, this model of care can also work for those who need longer-term care, it just depends on the situation.

Functional Nursing

The way this care model works is by structuring the nurses into a clear hierarchy. More senior nurses take the jobs that require the biggest knowledge base and the most experience, and less experienced nurses take care of less intense needs. Unlike total patient care, this model is not seen as much in private home care, due to the need for multiple nurses to be around. Functional nursing has nurses assigned to specific tasks, not to patients. It’s seen in hospital settings, and it was developed as a response to a nursing shortage in World War II.

Upsides to Functional Nursing

A clear benefit to this type of care is the efficient way in which the differing levels of experience of the different nurses on staff are utilized. This is a clear contrast between functional nursing and total patient care, where if a less experienced nurse is on duty, they might not have the skills required to get you the care you need.

Downsides to Functional Nursing

Functional nursing prioritizes efficiency over holistic care. That’s not ideal for people who want to be treated with a focus on their overall wellbeing rather than just focusing on specific symptoms and illnesses.

Basic Assistance Care

Private home care often offers these services as part of their care model, or they can be a nice complement to medical care at home. Basic assistance care means having someone help with daily chores like grocery shopping, laundry, and any other tasks around the house that you’d need help completing. This way, private home care can keep an elderly loved one in their home, even if they’re struggling to take care of it. 

Benefits of Basic Assistance Care

Like we said, this model of care can be a great private home care option for those who don’t have any major medical needs but still require some help managing their household. If you’re not aware of this option, you might choose to move out of your home into a facility that can provide for you, but that might not be what you really want. Basic assistance care can keep you in your home, where you’re most comfortable.

Drawbacks of Basic Assistance Care

Obviously the only concern with this type of private home care is that it doesn’t provide enough support for everyone. Lots of people will require more help than basic assistance. Any major medical conditions will necessitate a more intensive form of treatment. Basic assistance care can fill in the gaps not covered by medical care, but it’s not going to be great as the sole source of care for many people.

Physical, Occupational, or Speech Therapy

While some types of private home care are more focused on everyday activities, others (like this category) are more focused on medical needs. These types of therapists can help a patient recover from an injury, relearn how to do daily functions, or express themselves clearly. 


Therapists that engage in this type of work are specialists, so this model is quite different from something like total patient care that has a more holistic focus. That’s not a negative, though. Lots of these different categories of care can be combined. You might only see a physical therapist for a few hours a week, but if you need more care than that, you’ll need the help of another type of private home care to complement those efforts. It’s all about finding the right solutions for your needs.


It’s not really appropriate to keep up with the benefits and drawbacks organization we’ve done thus far for this one — either you need these services or you don’t. The only potential issue would be that you’re only getting physical, occupational, or speech therapy when you need a lot more care on a daily basis. To avoid that, you can try to mix and match these services with other forms of care to keep you in peak form.

Medical Social Services

These kinds of services are essential for people who get a lot of different types of care — all those different services will need careful coordination. That’s where a medical social worker can step in as a case manager. These professionals can also help the patient locate any resources they might need that their private home care doesn’t cover, and they sometimes act as counselors. 


Again, there aren’t really any downsides to this one. It’s just a supplemental form of care, making sure you’re getting exactly what you need. This will never be the only form of care you’re getting, so it’s not a main option to consider, just one of the add-ons that might be available to you.

Team Nursing

In a hospital, you’ll find many different types of personnel who administer many different types of care. One way to coordinate that is to implement a team nursing structure. This model involves team meetings every day to coordinate the different services each patient requires. It’s also somewhat similar to functional nursing in that different professionals will administer the different services instead of one nurse attending to all of a patient’s needs during their shift. Here, there will be a team leader coordinating everything. 

Benefits of Team Nursing

It’s right there in the name — team nursing gives you a whole team behind your care. You’ll also get mixes in experience levels. Sometimes, the team leader and a nursing assistant will team up to provide a service, meaning you’ll benefit from both the expertise of a long-time nurse and the eagerness of someone more new to the job.

Drawbacks of Team Nursing

If the total patient care model is the most appealing to you, then a model like team nursing is going to be missing that aspect of bonding between the nurse and the patient. It’s obviously still possible, but much like functional nursing, there won’t be just one nurse at a time assigned to your care. There will likely be a different nurse performing each different task. 


Also, this structure is clearly used in hospital settings, so it’s not going to be an option for private home care. 

Home Nursing Care

This is a type of private home care that goes much further than basic assistance care. This method of nursing is ideal for those who have a chronic condition that requires some specialized medical care. The professional arriving at your home will be a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, meaning they’re qualified to administer medical care. In some ways, this is a form of total patient care because one nurse will attend to everything you need while they are at your home. 

Positives of Home Nursing Care

Benefits of this style of care are wide-ranging. You’ll get to stay at home while receiving high-quality medical care, which is a big plus for a lot of people. The nurses can also sometimes train family members to perform some basic procedures, which will help everyone be on the same page and can keep the family more independent in the long run. 

Negatives of Home Nursing Care

The big one here is likely the cost. The nurses providing this type of private home care are skilled medical professionals, and that kind of expertise often doesn’t come cheap. Some services might be covered by your insurance, though, so it's definitely worth looking into if you think you or a loved one would benefit from home nursing care.

Find the right type of private home care for you.

We’ve laid out a lot of different options for private home care, and there’s sure to be at least one that will address your needs. Nothing about private home care is one size fits all, and it pays to do your research to find the right solution. Getting the wrong kind of care is not going to help, no matter how high-quality that care is.


Under the private home care umbrella, you’ll find a lot of different options. As a refresher, here are some of the ones we talked about: Medical social services, basic assistance care, and physical, occupational, and speech therapy. 


Even if private home care isn’t the right fit for you, there are plenty of different care models in other settings. Learning about them might help you know what to expect and might help you make important decisions about your health care. Keep in mind, though, that your doctor should be the one whose recommendations you’re listening to — definitely consult with them before making any decisions. 


Once you’ve learned about all the different types of care out there and consulted with your doctor, you’ll be well-equipped to find the right fit for you or a loved one. Whether that’s one specific care model or a combination of several different services, there’s definitely a good option out there. You just have to look for it.

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