Nursing Theorist: Dorothy Johnson


Nursing is a unique profession that relies on scientifically proven theories to improve the practice by positively influencing the quality of a patient’s health and life. These theories comprise an organized body of language that defines the meaning of nursing, what nurses do, and why they do it. Although many people have developed different frameworks to define nursing, Dorothy Johnson is one of the nursing theorists whose theory positively impacted the nursing practice. I chose to explore Dorothy Johnson since she is an influential leader in the nursing profession. She developed the behavioral system model, a fundamental theory in medical personnel’s work. Indeed, the ideal stands out as one of the influential theories allowing junior medical workers to offer psychological and physical support to patients. Hence, it is vital to appreciate Dorothy Johnson as a nursing theorist who developed the behavioral systems model that defines a person as a behavioral structure of different subsystems.


My motivation to develop the behavioral system model emerged after I read Nightingale’s belief that the primary goal of nursing was to enhance patient recovery from injuries and diseases. Indeed, I accepted Nightingale’s argument that nursing entails the rapport between the ailing person and the setting other than the ailment itself. Despite the precise definition of the nursing role, I noted that the level of medicine was insufficiently developed, making it impossible to promote quality services. Indeed, I pointed out that the only way the nurses could promote patient welfare is through fostering effective and efficient behavioral functioning in the ailing individual to prevent illness.

As a result, I developed this theory to stress the role of established habits and personal beliefs on the behavior of people seeking care. Specifically, the development of this theory came from the realization that patients’ issues did not emerge due to illnesses but as a result of behavior and lifestyle linked to the surrounding social environment. Hence, the behavioral systems model theory came to be due to my personal experience and long-term communication with patients from diverse social groups.

I, Dorothy Johnson, define nursing as a peripheral regulatory potency that upholds the structure and incorporation of the patient’s traits at the optimal level in circumstances where the patient’s behavior threatens their physical and social health. I believe that every patient has purposeful, structured, and repetitive acting strategies that make a significant segment of the person’s behavioral system. Hence, nursing should aim at attaining the suitability of personal traits to societal expectations and demands, remain beneficial and productive to themselves and society, adapt to different changes in the body functions, and offer solutions to other health challenges (Risnah et al., 2022). Hence, I support that nursing is a customer-centered profession that calls the nurse to foster operational and proficient behavioral functioning in the patient to prevent illness.


The behavioral system model describes a patient as an open living system containing a collection of subsystems interrelating to form a behavioral approach. These behavioral systems comprise regular, repetitive, goal-oriented, and predictable behaviors that strive toward balance. Differently, the nursing client stands out as a behavioral system that contains vital behavior symptoms for nursing and falls under seven subsystems: sexual, aggressive, achievement, dependence, affiliative, ingestive, and eliminative (Holaday, 2021).

The ingestive subsystem serves the vital function of appetitive satisfaction, and the affiliative segment forms the basis of social organization and provides security and survival. According to Holaday (2021), the dependency subsystem promotes helping traits that call for nurturing responses, and the achievement subsystem makes all the strides to manipulate the environment. Eliminative, sexual, and aggressive subsystems address conditions we eliminate, procreation, gratification, and protection. Hence, all these subsystems comprise goals based on a universal action, drive, choice, and set.

Theory Testing

The behavioral systems model has been influential in answering most of the questions that arise from the nursing practice. Askar and Ovayolu (2022) conducted a scientific study to measure the significance of the behavioral system model in managing coronary heart diseases. With the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases and premature deaths, it is vital to understand how this theory shapes the process of nursing care. In this case report, the researchers concluded that the behavioral system model was a reliable model that offers a reliable conceptual framework in nursing practices. Besides, the model also allows nurses to promote behavioral changes among patients by developing an effective nursing care plan. In sum, this study confirms the significance of promoting behavioral change as suggested by the behavioral systems model to manage illnesses.

Another study on a patient suffering from a wrist joint hematoma also helped illustrate the effectiveness of Dorothy Johnson’s model. Specifically, Karkhah et al. (2020) conducted a study to assess whether nurses could use this model to diagnose patients’ issues and design patient-based care. According to the study findings, implementing a care program based on Johnson’s behavioral model enhanced the attainment of caring goals. It improved the patient’s sleep, appetite, and understanding of behavioral choices. Indeed, as a result of this model, the patient improved her independence, self-care routines, self-esteem, desire for healthy food, and excretion. Hence, using Johnson’s behavioral model in modern nursing to develop and implement care programs improves the treatment plan and primary care results.


The behavioral systems theory is specific model practitioners apply in specialized medical institutions without altering it. Indeed, the approach reflects how nurses work with different patients who possess behavioral issues. Over the years, practitioners have used the theory to treat other cases, including less severe deviations and serious behavioral disorders. Besides, the behavioral systems theory allows the nurses to assess the patient’s psycho-emotional state and use the gathered data to make the correct conclusions regarding the optimal course of treatment (Kim, 2019). Hence, medical practitioners use the concepts of behavioral systems theory to attain efficient treatment results and gain the leader’s and patient’s trust.


Overall, Dorothy Johnson is an influential nursing theorist whose work on the behavioral systems model has remained significant in the nursing practice. Many practitioners rely on the components of this theory to handle and understand patients with various behavioral disorders. Although developed in the late 20th century, scholars over the last five years have continued to support the effectiveness of the behavioral systems theory in the nursing practice and profession. Indeed, based on this review, it is evident that the model offers numerous advantages to the nursing care process, reducing the prevalence of adverse effects. Thus, implementing this theory in the nursing professions allows the professionals to attain different professional successes and recognition and satisfaction among the patients.


Askar, S. E., & Ovayolu, O. (2022). Nursing care based on Dorothy Johnson’s Behavioral System Model in Coronary Artery Disease: A case report. Medical Science and Discovery, 9(2), 138-142. Web.

Holaday, B. (2021). Dorothy Johnson: Behavioral system model. Nursing Theorists and Their Work E-Book, 270.

Karkhah, S., Ghazanfari, M. J., Norouzi, M., Khaleghdoust, T., Dahka, S. M., & Taheri, Z. (2020). Designing a nursing care plan based on Johnson’s behavioral model in patients with wrist joint hematoma: A case study. Research Square. Web.

Kim, J. (2019). Experience Participating in the Pregnancy Recognition Program. International Journal of Advanced Culture Technology, 7(1), 28-34. Web.

Risnah, R., Sutria, E., Wahdaniar, W., & Irwan, M. (2022). Students’ Hand-Washing Behaviour Based On Behavioral System Models as An Effort of Covid-19 Prevention. Al-Sihah: The Public Health Science Journal, 114-123. Web.

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