• chaos theory;
  • management;
  • service delivery

Aims  The purpose of this study was to evaluate the part simplified chaos theory could play in the management of nursing services.

Background  As nursing care becomes more complex, practitioners need to become familiar with business planning and objective time management. There are many time-limited methods that facilitate this type of planning but few that can help practitioners to forecast the end-point outcome of the service they deliver.

Methods  A growth model was applied to a specialist service to plot service trajectory.

Results  Components of chaos theory can play a role in forecasting service outcomes and consequently the impact upon the management of such services.

Implications for nursing management  The ability to (1) track the trajectory of a service and (2) manipulate that trajectory by introducing new variables can allow managers to forward plan for service development and to evaluate the effectiveness of a service by plotting its end-point state.