The King’s Conceptual System Theory

The Three Systems

Imogene King’s Conceptual System is rooted in the assumption that human beings make up the focus of nursing. The purpose of nursing is the care of the sick, the injured, and the dying, health maintenance, promotion, and restoration (Smith & Parker, 2015). Nurses play a crucial role in taking care of patients. King asserts that the nursing domain encompasses individuals, families, and communities as a structure within which nurses perform transactions to be healthy (Adib-Hajbaghery & Tahmouresi, 2018). The association between relationships and health is human acts or behavior. An extensive review of the nursing literature leads to the derivation of concepts that systematize knowledge concerning individuals, groups, and society. The basic concepts of functions of systems are status, role, social organization, communication, information, and energy.

The theory of goal attainment comprises three central systems, which are personal, interpersonal, and social. In the personal system, King views each individual as a special being who is whole and is eternally in interaction with the environment (Sitzman, 2017). Therefore, each individual should be considered to be a singular entity that entails the concepts of perception, self, growth, and development, body image, own space, coping, and learning. An example of this system is a patient and a nurse. Interactions between two or more individuals create the interpersonal system, and as the number of individuals grows, the complexity of the communication also intensifies. The King’s process of nursing revolves primarily within the relationship between a nurse and a patient (Warren, 2016). This system comprises of concepts such as role, stress, transaction, communication, interaction, and stressors. An example of this system is the family of the patient. The social network is made up of large groups of individuals who have a common goal or interest (Smith & Parker, 2015). The system provides the structure for interpersonal communications and social interactions in societies such as workplaces, schools, families, and organizations. This system aids nurses in handling their care roles, earn their professional objectives in hospital-based care systems, and accomplish a suitable status as a public health nurse in public. The concepts making up this system are authority, rank, power, decision making, and organization. An example of a social network is the interaction between a nurse and a patient.

How the Systems Influence Goal Attainment

The personal system of the theory of goal attainment identifies that there will be no productive interaction between a patient and a nurse until they achieve an accurate and proper understanding of each other. That is, a nurse’s correct perception of a patient’s system will enable goal accomplishment and patient-nurse interaction (Sitzman, 2017). The interpersonal system heavily impacted the development of the theory of goal attainment. King asserted that the interpersonal system had more significance to care quality as compared to the personal and social networks as she had observed that the nursing process primarily occurred in the interpersonal system (Slatyer et al., 2016). That is, the goal of health is only successfully accomplished after both sides of the relationship interact accordingly and work together collaboratively to achieve their objectives. In the social system, nurses’ power has been identified as the main influence and director of the goal. Nurses support patients through power, as it affects their functionality and decision making (Tappen, 2016). Nurses require a proper understanding of power as the identification and utilization of power sources can help establish and promote goal attainment and relationships.

How King’s Theory Helps Define a Clinical Quality Problem

The King’s theory can enable the definition of the clinical quality problem as nurses have to understand that communication is paramount as it forms trust, which is the main element in the relationship between a nurse and a patient. Clinical pathways provide for this purpose as nurses communicate to their patients the care and goals that are achieved by working with each other (Fronczek et al., 2017). Nurses need to be highly reactive and responsive, especially when dealing with emergencies. Therefore, King’s theory is well applicable as it encourages nurses to develop and enhance their communication behaviors. A nurse’s first impression on a patient is crucial because poor communication promotes mediocre interaction between a nurse and a patient (Barbe et al., 2018). King’s theory is essential as it helps a nurse interact better and connect with a patient. It also enables a nurse to identify communication barriers that impede goal setting and attainment, thus allowing for a successful transaction.

Application of King’s Theory in a Potential Practice Quality Improvement Initiative

Nursing has significantly benefited from King’s theory; working in the gynecology section necessitates much nurse-patient interaction. By using King’s approach that entails interactive systems, I can ease communication between myself and my patients. For instance, in the case of Abi, a teenage girl who was recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She kept complaining that she had been gaining weight at an alarming rate. I began by identifying the possibility of mutual perception of her specific condition and then proceeded to inquire and inform her of the risks related to her situation and her opinion as a patient living with PCOS.

We both needed to identify the key problem, and in her case, I observed that she did not want to reduce her high-calorie diet nor do any exercise. I assisted her in setting goals that would enable her to avoid further complications associated with the condition in my capacity as a nurse. There was a need for a mutual agreement on the goals set and the methods to be used, and by advising her to eat low-calorie food and exercise occasionally, I performed an appropriate action in my capacity. King’s theory will help the patient and I attain our set goals in a few months.

How Quality Committee Align Outcomes with King’s Conceptual System Theory

King’s theory can be applied when setting a functional quality committee. The three interactive systems provide the identification of the roles to be performed by members, the decision-making process, the statuses of individuals, the stressing factors, and methods of communication (Fronczek et al., 2017). The interpersonal system can be used to identify members with similar interests, allowing for the distinguishing of the appropriate modes of communication to be used, the stressors therein, and the roles of each member. The social system is beneficial as it can help in recognition of the powers of each member, making of proper decisions, setting of goals, and the evaluation of the attainment of the latter.

Nursing Theory that Aligns with an Improved Quality of Practice Initiative

Orem’s Self-Care deficit theory is related to the King’s Conceptual System theory. Orem’s approach comprises of three interrelated concepts- self-care concepts- that are similar to King’s personal systems. King’s proposal seeks to facilitate the communication between a nurse and a patient, with the main focus being goal attainment (Smith & Parker, 2015). Orem’s approach aims to identify patient deficits, thus enabling the development of plans to allow patients to obtain good health. These two theories are closely related to that; they are directed at empowering patients and enhancing nurse-patient interactions. These theories are also both goal-oriented and are applicable in various clinical and hospital settings.


Adib-Hajbaghery, M., & Tahmouresi, M. (2018). Nurse–patient relationship based on the Imogene King’s theory of goal attainment. Nursing and Midwifery Studies, 7(3), 141.

Barbe, T., Kimble, L. P., & Rubenstein, C. (2018). Subjective cognitive complaints, psychosocial factors and nursing work function in nurses providing direct patient care. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 74(4), 914-925.

Fronczek, A. E., Rouhana, N. A., & Kitchin, J. M. (2017). Enhancing telehealth education in nursing: Applying King’s conceptual framework and theory of goal attainment. Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(3), 209-213.

Sitzman, K. (2017). Understanding the work of nurse theorists: A creative beginning. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, 31(4).

Slatyer, S., Coventry, L. L., Twigg, D., & Davis, S. (2016). Professional practice models for nursing: a review of the literature and synthesis of key components. Journal of Nursing Management, 24(2), 139-150.

Smith, M. C., & Parker, M. E. (2015). Nursing theories and nursing practice. FA Davis.

Tappen, R. M. (2016). Advanced nursing research: From theory to practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Warren, H. (2016). Middle-range theories: Frameworks for examining a nonsurgical cosmetic problem. Plastic Surgical Nursing, 36(1), 9-11.