Complexity Theory as Applied to Nursing Essay

4022 Words17 Pages
Complexity Theory as Applied to Nursing, 2005


Many conventional ideas about the world we live in have been shaken to their foundations by the emerging concepts of chaos and complexity. Insights are now being gained from the application of complexity theory into phenomena varying in scale from the natural sciences such as biology to the concept of caring in the nurse-patient relationship. These new scientific ideas have significant implications for the theory and practice of nursing.
This paper will cover four key concepts from complexity theory that will be introduced as relevance to nursing. These include: unpredictable dynamic systems; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; fuzzy and permeable boundaries;
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If nothing is done, body mass will decline at a steady and predictable rate due to a catabolic metabolism. However, dynamic systems can produce startling variability over short time-scales due to their sensitivity to feedback.
This variability can make the system appear chaotic and unpredictable, rather like the weather. However, computer analysis of such systems reveals that there is a deeper underlying order within the apparent chaos.
There are rules governing the behavior of the system over a short range in space and time, therefore it is referred to as deterministic or predictable chaos. The challenge is to discover the rules and determine how they operate so that we might gain insight into the apparently chaotic behavior before us. Deterministic chaos should be distinguished from unpredictable chaos which refers to random fluctuation or background noise, often distractingly superimposed upon the bigger picture. This is often the case over long ranges and periods of time and cannot be predicted. It is not possible in human experience (Stacey, Douglas, & Shaw, 2002).
An individual's health behavior is influenced by feedback from his or her actions. Small decisions made today can have major, unforeseen consequences tomorrow. A moment's reflection also reveals that the health care system and nursing has the characteristics of a dynamic system in that what happens today affects
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