A healthcare department that used the theory

Application: Systems Theory

As noted in the Learning Resources, systems theory provides a meaningful and beneficial means of examining challenges in health care organizations. To do this effectively, however, it is essential to assess all system components, as some may be relatively healthy while others are problematic.

For this Assignment, you apply systems theory to the examination of a problem in a department or a unit within a health care organization. (Note: You may use the same problem you identified for the Discussion as long as it meets the criteria for this assignment.)

To prepare:

Review the Meyer article, Nursing Services Delivery Theory: An Open System Approach,in this weeks Learning Resources. Focus especially on the information presented in Table 1 (p. 2831) and Figure 2 (p. 2833).

Reflect on your organization or one with which you are familiar. Within a particular department or unit in this organization, identify a problem the staff is encountering.

Using Table 1 in the Meyer article as a guide, analyze the department or unit, identifying inputs, throughput, output, cycles of events, and negative feedback. Consider whether the problem you have selected relates to input, throughput, output, cycles of events, and/or negative feedback.

Think about how you could address the problem: Consider what a desired outcome would be, then formulate related goals and objectives, and translate those goals into policies and procedures.

Research professional standards that are pertinent to your identified problem.

Reflect on the organizations mission statement and values. In addition, consider how addressing this problem would uphold the mission and values, while improving the organizational culture and climate. (Depending on the organization you have selected, you may have explored these in the Week 1 Discussion.)

To complete:

Write a 3- to 5-page paper that addresses the following:

Describe a department or unit within a health care organization using systems theory terminology. Include a description of inputs, throughput, output, cycles of events, and negative feedback.

Describe the problem you identified within the department or unit using an open- systems approach, and state where the problem exists using the systems theory model (input, throughput, output, cycles of events, or negative feedback).

Based on this information, explain how you would address the problem as follows:

Formulate a desired outcome.

Identify goals and objectives that would facilitate that outcome.

Translate those goals and objectives into policies and procedures for the department or unit.

Describe relevant professional standards.

Explain how your proposed resolution to the problem would uphold the organizations mission and values and improve the culture and climate.

The Application of Systems Theory in Healthcare


            The globe is extremely complex and has subsystems which enable it run effectively. The subsystems interlink. However, each has vivid boundaries as well as coherent dynamics. The systems theory was developed in 1932 by Ludwig von Bertalanffy with the intention of making simple the complexities in the world and making sure that humans understood it easily. Normally, the theory is usual in elaborating the functioning of things around us (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). This paper aims at discussing the application of the systems theory in the healthcare institution.

A healthcare department that used the theory

            In itself, a hospital is a system with inputs, outputs, and processes. The hospital is a component of the larger health care system. The surgical department is a perfect example of a department that applies systems theory (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). Various activities take place in such a department including electronic documentation and physiological monitoring. Use of the theory in the department ensures a supportive care environment, professional autonomy, and increased practitioner’s participation when making decisions.

            Inputs are processed to enable outputs’ production. Inputs include time used by professionals, fuel, energy, efforts made by physicians and nurses, information, funds, time, and individual effort (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010).

            Throughput are the processes that the system uses to convert raw materials obtained from the environment into products that the system or environment can use. In the department, this includes diagnosing, planning, physical examination of patients, thinking, decision-making, writing prescriptions, taking vital signs, patient operation, constructing, sorting, meeting in groups, making speeches, discussions, and sharing information.

            Some of the outputs from a surgical department are health services, better health, software programs, documents, laws, rules, money, clothing, cars, bills, decisions, as well as assistance (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010).

            The surgical department experiences various cycles of events which repeat themselves and require more energy for reorganization. Sometimes, the department lacks adequate resources, time, and professionals to care for an increased number of patients comprehensively. As a result, there might be complications and insufficient care, which might lead to patient death. In such cases, there is need for assistance and collaboration from all staff members, which goes a long way in preventing negative impacts. Stable periods are experienced following such difficult times such that it is possible to care for the few numbers of patients using the available resources and professionals (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010).

            In the department, negative feedback includes feedback, communication, the management’s and other departments’ support, and collaboration, which aim at enhancing the services and quality. There is a need for a mechanism for gathering and using negative feedback. This ensures that not too much energy is used or taken in by the system, which would eventually upset the system. 

Problem identification using the open systems approach

            The surgical department constitutes of an energic input-output system. For sustained inputs, the department has to depend on a supportive environment (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). This enhances sustainability and inputs’ procedures via recurring and patterned interactions as well as people’s activities to produce outputs. The department is a social system and its subsystems struggle for a vibrant steady situation where the regularities of energy flow maintain the character of the system. Disturbances indicate the adaptation of the system.

            The surgical department is most likely to suffer from insufficient collaboration as well as proper coordination between different professionals who are involved in patient care (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). There is extreme vulnerability to inevitable dissolution, entropy, and disorder process as a result of inadequate or loss of inputs as well as the incapability of transforming energies. Worth noting, an open system is inherent in the health care organization. Therefore, there is a need for negative entropy which necessitates creating slack resources, renewing inputs, storing energy, and escalated imported energy. Entropy can also be counteracted by adapting system functioning in response to informational signals and feedback from the environment (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010).

            As argued by the open systems theory, there is a hierarchical nature in the department where each level possesses a subsystem with interrelated parts. Every subsection in the department has collaboration and authority that is linked to other subsections and this is essential in promoting quality services and performance. The surgical department possesses many energy transformation and operations. There is throughput in the production subsystem and this enhances labor division so that tasks are accomplished (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). Inadequate collaboration and proper coordination in the surgical department is usually as a result of inequitable labor division and various individuals failing to perform their roles as obligated. The production system transforms energy and this optimizes task accomplishment via technical proficiency. Labor division is the cardinal mechanism and it determines structure and work flow. Subdividing work leads to work flow breaks. However, this has regularly been a challenge in the department.

Addressing the challenge

Desired outcome

            Promoting proper coordination and collaboration between all surgical department’s subsystems.


            Ensuring collaboration in the department is essential in improving employee satisfaction, patient outcome, as well as the entire entity’s and department’s performance. More importantly, transformational leadership should be enhanced in the department (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). Another crucial goal is the redesign of care so that professional expertise and knowledge is optimized. Finally, the experts in the department should be in a position to work as a team with employees from other departments in promoting safe, equitable, and reliable care.


            The first objective for guiding the desired outcome and stated goal is integrating work procedures across all roles and subunits via the utilization of coordination devices (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). Differentiation of the department calls for extra integration and coordination so that system functioning is unified. Hence, complexity, coordination, and size need an increase in the organization as subsystems multiply and specialize in function.

            For there to be transformational leaders in the department, there is a need to devote in leaders that can create and implement programs, products, and environments that can satisfy patient needs. Moreover, it is worth engaging and empowering all professionals in the department to act as leaders that can offer quality healthcare. Lastly, offering departmental learning chances is essential for individual leaders as well as leadership teams so that they can learn together and devise tools for meeting the desired outcome and goals (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010).

            Optimizing professional expertise and knowledge can be guided by several objectives. First, it is worth producing evidence that can drive the practice of the specialists, legitimize, as well as recognize the evolution of knowledge in the environment, which is transforming rapidly. Second, it will be important to document supporting nurse workflow and develop care systems. This will optimize specialist and client interaction whenever there is one. Finally, there should be a desire to constantly exceed and achieve the planned measure targets as well as regulatory standards’ compliance.

Policies and procedures

            So as to develop transformational leaders, the surgical department will need to partner with different bodies including business schools so as to identify proper assessment tools for conducting gap analysis in regard to the current knowledge state on quality and patient safety (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). All professional from all levels in the department will be trained regarding care process redesign as well as quality improvement by using different programs such as poster presentations and educational offerings, the Exploring Executive Excellence mentoring program, and shared governance programs. The shared governance model and unit boards are essential as a platform through which nurses can lead patient safety in addition to process improvement initiatives. The will be a literature review on personalized care and highly reliable systems (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). The department should assess and secure organizational synergy so as to promote care redesign and secure proper resources. Patient experience should be analyzed as well as care in various areas of the department. All professionals should participate in development and execution of focused initiatives dependent on high volume, high risk, and problem-prone events.

Relevant professional standards

            There should be stringent compliance to professional standards by all professionals. A high level of academic, personal, and professional honesty and integrity should be maintained. Privacy and confidentiality should be respected (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). Empathy should be a component when interacting with all people and respect and dignity should be included in all interactions. Professionals should be accountable for their decisions and there should be strategies for coping with errors and misjudgments.

How the proposed resolution can enhance outcomes

            Every institution desires meeting the set values and mission. The proposed resolution is useful in fulfilling this as there will be more coordination and collaboration in the entire institution and department. This will translate to better patient outcome (Meyer & O’Brien-Pallas, 2010). As a result of the collaboration, solving pressing issues will be easier and this will lead to a better climate and culture in the department.


 Meyer, R. M., &   O’Brien-Pallas, L. L. (2010). Nursing Services Delivery Theory: an open        system approach. J Adv Nurs. 66(12): 2828–2838.

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