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The patient allocation paradigm of nursing care is slowly superseding the task allocation paradigm. A research study reported here upon the introduction of patient allocation in a maternity hospital found that patients experienced few significant changes in their satisfaction; similar to previous studies this research found that the nurses reported significant gains in satisfaction. Following analysis of the ‘medical model’ assumptions inherent in the two paradigms and the methods used in the studies, it is suggested that a third paradigm of nursing care is emerging, ‘patient centred’— a paradigm within which the patient is a participating individual.