Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Monash University

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2015 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Organisational UnitSchool of Primary Health Care
OfferedNot offered in 2015
Coordinator(s)Associate Professor Lyn Clearihan


This unit will provide students with a broad based understanding of complexity theory, the nonlinear dynamics underpinning the physiology of health and disease, and the place of complex systems in managing the health care system. Practitioners will be introduced to the concepts and methods of complexity sciences and encouraged to explore the application of these to areas of their own clinical practice or to issues of national relevance for a primary health care setting. The focus of the learning content and activities will challenge students to explore the currently accepted concepts, held by both health care practitioners and healthcare systems in general. Practitioners will be encouraged to generate solutions for these problems that explicitly describe the intended and unintended consequences of such solutions.

The unit will address the nature of complex adaptive systems, applying complex adaptive systems principles to learning, clinical and organisational problems and developing solutions to problems that are context sensitive.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Explain complexity theory and the principles underpinning the place of complex systems in modern health care.
  2. Critically evaluate the application of complexity theory to managing a range of specific clinical problems.
  3. Critically assess the challenges confronting international health service delivery using complexity theory modelling.
  4. Describe the application of a systems based approach to individual patient care.
  5. Compare and contrast the approach to a clinical problem using a reductionist, linear model with a complex systems approach.
  6. Operationalise the management of common clinical problems through the application of complexity theory.


2 x Case studies (1,500 words each) (50%)
Essay (2,000 words) (20%)
Presentation (30%)
Participation in webinars and at least 80% of online discussions (Hurdle)
Online quizzes (Hurdle)

Workload requirements

Participation in online activities and discussion boards is estimated to take approximately 3 hours per week. Assessment activities, prescribed reading, recommended reading, student interactions and private study is estimated to take approximately 9 hours per week.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study



Concurrent clinical practice is desirable and beneficial to successfully complete this unit but not a requirement.