The Application of Systems Theory in Healthcare

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
To prepare:
�Review the Meyer article, “Nursing Services Delivery Theory: An Open System
Approach,” in this week’s 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 organization’s 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
Describe relevant professional standards.
�Explain how your proposed resolution to the problem would uphold the organization’s
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


Addressing the challenge

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