Why Complexity Science can Improve Healthcare
University of Colorado Center for Chaos and Complexity
Emeritus School of Nursing
Osher Institute, Harvard Medical School
Mike D. Norman
Last modified: May 31, 2007
Why is complexity science useful for understanding and knowing how to act in healthcare situations? Healthcare is a complex process involving numerous disciplines seeking to promote the well-being of human-beings- a phenomenon that is inseparable from the environment. The complexity is increased by the fact that change in either the human-being or the environment is accompanied by change in the other. They are in mutual process. The human-environment process is sensitive to initial conditions, robust through constant change, irreversible, and self-organizing only guided by shared information.An expert caregiver gains a great deal of information over time and knows the mechanics of their craft so well that energy is conserved for understanding new and unique information and identifying shifts in patterning. In a world of many dimensions, the information that is available far exceeds what our five senses perceive and choosing the best action is a creative process of gathering information. Nursing intuition is a “strongly emergent system” capable of exhibiting properties and principles that cannot be reduced to the cumulative effects of the properties of the components. Intuitive knowing is coupled with a creative solution, enabling nurses to act in a manner, not planned or anticipated, but perceived as being of value at that moment and in that situation. This presentation updates efforts to examine nursing intuition as an emergent process that may be mathematically modeled to provide insight for new applications to healthcare practice.