Care transitions: integrating transition theory and complexity science concepts

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. Jul-Sep 2012;35(3):236-48. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e31826260a5.


Care transitions, defined as hospital discharge or movement from one health care setting to another, are currently a major concern of health care providers and policy makers. Extensive empirical research has been conducted on care transitions, but the theoretical foundations are rarely made explicit. We propose that integrating concepts on complex adaptive systems from complexity science with classic theory on transitions in nursing provides a powerful new lens through which to study care transitions and improve transition outcomes. We summarize concepts from both theoretical approaches, propose an expanded model of transitions, and apply the model to the transition from hospital to home.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Community Health Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care