King’s Conceptual System Theory Essay

King’s Conceptual System Theory Essay


King’s Conceptual System Theory

King’s conceptual system theory is known as the general systems framework or the open systems model. It is one of the nursing theories developed based on the assumption that the focus of nursing is the human being. The theory offers a comprehensive understanding of three dynamic systems of a human being that interact to enable the individual to meet their basic needs, function in their socially defined roles, and interact with others effectively. This paper explores King’s conceptual systems theory, the systems, the influence of the systems on goal attainment, the definition of a clinical practice problem using King’s theory, the application of the theory to a potential practice improvement initiative in my clinical practice, how a quality committee would align outcomes with King’s conceptual system theory, and an additional nursing theory that could align with an improved quality of practice initiative.

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The Conceptual System Theory

The conceptual system theory was developed in 1971 by Imogene G. King. King’s conceptual system theory focuses on the continuing ability of individuals to meet their basic needs, thus enabling them to function in their socially defined roles and function in their three dynamic, open and interacting systems. The theory states that the three interacting systems, as stipulated by the theory, including the personal, interpersonal, and social systems (Kuntuganova, Doskeldinova & Vaartio-Rajalin, 2021).

Furthermore, King defined a system as any elements connected by communication links exhibiting goal-directed behavior. King conceptualized the three systems as a representation of the environments influencing individuals, groups, and community’s growth, health, development, and work. She also noted that the systems are similar for all individuals, groups, or communities, irrespective of location, culture, or nationality; thus, the theory can be applied in any setting (Kuntuganova et al., 2021).

King’s conceptual system theory uses the general systems theory of nursing since it is based on the four meta paradigms of nursing, human beings, environment, health and nursing. King derived a unique perspective of the nursing profession using the four concepts, given that its primary focus is the human being. Focusing on the individual, the theory emphasizes the nurse-patient relationship and identifies and overcomes barriers to health.

The 3 Systems of the Conceptual System Theory

There are three central systems as defined by the conceptual system theory. These systems are the personal (individuals), interpersonal (groups) and social systems (society). The first system is the personal system. King believed that each individual is a personal system. Human beings were comprehended as persons using the concepts of body image- the reaction to one’s appearance, how they perceive their body, and growth and development- the process of moving from potential for achievement to self-actualization. Other concepts are perception, self, time and space. An excellent example of a personal system is a patient.

The interpersonal system encompasses a group of individuals. The interaction of individuals forms interpersonal systems. As the number of people interacting increases, the interaction becomes complex. The concepts of interactions, transactions, communication, role, and stress are utilized to understand interpersonal systems. Interaction means observable behaviors within a group, the transaction represents the interaction based on a goal, communication is the transfer of information from one person to another, the role means the reciprocity of the interaction, and stress means maintaining balance to control and regulate stressors. A group of diabetic patients attending patient education programs together is an example of an interpersonal system.

Social systems entail a more complex interaction, such as the interaction between an extended family, a religious, or an educational group, among others. Social systems are understood using concepts such as authority, power, status, organization and decision-making. A movement for diabetes patients in a particular community is an example of a social system.

The Systems and Goal Attainment

The personal, interpersonal and social systems significantly influence goal attainment. According to the theory of goal attainment, nursing practice is guided by the nurse-patient relationship to meet the mutual goal of the transaction (Park, 2021). Additionally, nursing practice is a process with the ultimate goal of attaining health for individuals, a group of individuals and society. Therefore, the three interaction systems can be applied to influence goal attainment for the patient. To begin with, the personal system entails body image, growth and development, personal space, time and perception. It can influence goal attainment since one’s perception of interaction affects how one reacts and take action toward achieving the goal.

Furthermore, the interpersonal system, such as a religious group, also influences the means used to achieve a goal and the agreement on the means to achieve a certain goal. For instance, a nurse may have difficulties agreeing with a patient from a different religious group on the means they should use to achieve a certain goal due to differences in beliefs.

The social system also influences goal attainment since it dictates the individual’s behaviors in the interaction. Park (2021) notes that observable behaviors may lead to disturbance or difficulties in communication and a successful transaction between the nurse and the patient. Therefore, the social system may influence goal attainment or inhibit goal attainment.

King’s Theory and the Definition of a Clinical Quality Problem

King’s theory can be used to define a clinical practice problem by emphasizing the importance of communication and trust between the client and the nurse in ensuring a successful transaction and goal attainment. According to Karota et al. (2020), the conceptual framework theory mandates the nurse to know that communication and trust are the basis of a successful interaction. More so, King’s theory identifies the factors that could compromise clinical quality, such as stress and unclear roles in the interaction. For instance, when a nurse is dealing with a diabetes patient, it is their responsibility to explain their roles in the interaction, address their concerns and perceptions regarding the disease, and the actions taken to achieve desired patient outcomes. Addressing these issues would also enhance patient safety, comfort and adherence to lifestyle changes required to manage diabetes. Therefore, the nurse must communicate with the patients, as a personal system, in all stages of the interaction and strive to develop trust between them. The transaction goals and the means of achieving them should also be laid out.

Application of Kings Conceptual System theory to a Potential Quality Improvement Initiative

One of the most common quality practice problems in my area of practice is increased hospital readmissions caused by medication non-compliance by the patient. Therefore, a potential quality improvement initiative would reduce hospital readmissions by encouraging medication compliance. Research shows that one of the significant causes of medication non-compliance is ignorance and lack of information on the importance of medication adherence (Bailey et al., 2019). King’s conceptual systems and theory of goal attainment can be used in this initiative by emphasizing the importance of communication, providing all relevant information to the patient and having mutual goals in an interaction. Patients are likely to adhere to medication compliance if they know why they should use the medication at a particular time and what goal they aim to achieve through medication compliance. Additionally, as guided by the theory, the nurse should understand the patient’s perception of the illness and medication, thus enhancing medication compliance to reduce hospital readmissions.

Aligning Outcomes with King’s Conceptual Theory

A quality committee could align the outcomes of a quality improvement initiative with King’s conceptual systems theory by evaluating the initiative’s success using a change of observable behavior that shows the achievement of goals. A review by Fronczek (2022) shows that the conceptual systems theory maintains that the success of an initiative must consider the interaction of the three systems. Similarly, a quality improvement committee would align outcomes with the theory by ensuring the initiative considers its effects on the individual, group, and society. Evaluation of the initiative in these systems could influence improvement to enhance the success of outcomes.

Additional Nursing Theory that could align with an Improved Quality of Practice Initiative

The other nursing theory that could align with an improved quality of practice initiative is Dorothea Orem’s self-care deficit theory. The theory states that an individual can take care of themselves and do the activities of daily living, but when they are unable to, they are said to have a self-care deficit, and that is when they seek help. Based on this theory, the nurses assist the patient in overcoming the self-care deficit. The theory could align with a quality improvement practice initiative since helping patients perform daily living activities enhances patient comfort and safety, which are care quality issues.


King’s conceptual systems theory is one of the theories that have been applied heavily in the nursing field. It emphasized the importance of the nurse-patient relationship and the interaction using the three systems to attain goal achievement and success through observable behavior change. The three systems are the personal, interpersonal and social systems. As discussed above, the application of the theory can enhance outcomes in clinical quality improvement initiatives.



Bailey, M. K., Weiss, A. J., Barrett, M. L., & Jiang, H. J. (2019). Characteristics of 30-Day all-cause hospital readmissions, 2010–2016: Statistical Brief# 248. In Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Briefs. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).

Fronczek, A. E. (2022). Ushering in a New Era for King’s Conceptual System and Theory of Goal Attainment. Nursing Science Quarterly35(1), 89-91.

Karota, E., Purba, J. M., Simamora, R. H., & Siregar, C. T. (2020). Use of King’s theory to improve diabetics self-care behavior. Clinical Nursing30, 95-99.

Kuntuganova, A., Doskeldinova, A., & Vaartio-Rajalin, H. (2021). King’s middle-range theory of goal attainment–a feasible framework for nursing. Astana Medical Journal110(4), 45-52.

Park B. M. (2021). Effects of Nurse-Led Intervention Programs Based on Goal Attainment Theory: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland)9(6), 699.



Assignment Description:
King’s Conceptual System Theory

Write a 1250-1500 word APA paper addressing each of the following points. Be sure to completely answer all the questions for each bullet point. Separate each section in your paper with a clear heading that allows your professor to know which bullet you are addressing in that section of your paper. Support your ideas with at least two (2) outside sources and the textbook using citations in your essay. Make sure to cite using the APA writing style for the essay. The cover page and reference page in correct APA do not count towards the minimum word amount. Review the rubric criteria for this assignment.

Discuss and explain King’s Conceptual System Theory.
First explain the 3 systems and provide examples of each system
Explain how the systems influence goal attainment
How could King’s theory help define a clinical quality problem?
Apply this theory to a potential practice quality improvement initiative within your clinical practice.
How could a quality committee align outcomes with King’s Conceptual System Theory?
What additional nursing theory from our readings could also align with an improved quality of practice initiative?

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