• chaos theory;
  • statistical modelling;
  • nursing theory;
  • nursing research

Using chaos theory: the implications for nursing

Aims of the paper. The purpose of this paper is to review chaos theory and to examine the role that it may have in the discipline of nursing.

Background. In this paper, the fundamental ingredients of chaotic thinking are outlined. The earlier days of chaos thinking were characterized by an almost exclusively physiological focus. By the 21st century, nurse theorists were applying its principles to the organization and evaluation of care delivery with varying levels of success. Whilst the biological use of chaos has focused on pragmatic approaches to knowledge enhancement, nursing has often focused on the mystical aspects of chaos as a concept.

Conclusions. The contention that chaos theory has yet to find a niche within nursing theory and practice is examined. The application of chaotic thinking across nursing practice, nursing research and statistical modelling is reviewed. The use of chaos theory as a way of identifying the attractor state of specific systems is considered and the suggestion is made that it is within statistical modelling of services that chaos theory is most effective.