Tips to Master Delegation in Nursing

Two medical personnel discussing a patient chartDelegation is an important tool for team cohesion and training in any work setting. It can be a critical time management tool for nurses. But how can nurses delegate most effectively?

Importance of Delegation in Nursing

Nurses have a variety of duties and, in many cases, a large number of patients in their care. Because patient care requires many time-consuming tasks, delegation is a vital tool to helping nurses spend their time in the most productive ways possible. Registered nurses have the ability to delegate tasks to several different kinds of healthcare professionals, including licensed nurses and nursing assistants, though the precise duties of each role vary from state to state.

Delegation is different from assignment in a few key ways. When you assign a task, that task must fall within the scope of the assignee’s job description, and the education and training required by that job must confer the skills required for completion of the task. When you delegate a task, however, that task is allowed to fall outside the purview of the delegatee’s role, provided delegating the task doesn’t violate hospital policy and that the delegatee has obtained additional education that covers the task in question.

Another important distinction is that the assignee is accountable for the result of the task. However, when you delegate a nursing task, you bear ultimate responsibility for the task’s outcome and must be on hand in a supervisory capacity.

Delegation can save considerable time. In the short term, it can give you the ability to better perform your duties and free you up to focus on other challenges. In the long term, it builds valuable skills in those you delegate to, making it easier to delegate to them in the future.

How to Master Delegation in Nursing

5 R’s of Nursing Delegation

The easiest way to make sure you’re delegating properly is to follow the 5 R’s.

Right Task

While delegation can be a good tool for teaching someone new skills, patient care and safety always comes first. When delegating nursing tasks, make sure you have a high degree of confidence that the task can be completed correctly and safely. The task must fall within the purview of the delegatee’s job role or, if it does not, must fall within hospital procedure. Day-to-day tasks are typically safe to delegate, while more complex tasks should be handled only by those with the proper experience and training.

Right Circumstance

It’s also necessary to be aware of the patient’s current state and to only delegate tasks when the patient is in stable condition. Avoid delegating a task when a patient’s condition is prone to fluctuation or when the patient is in critical condition, as this places the patient in unnecessary danger. In addition, be aware that delegating a task doesn’t mean that the delegatee replaces you in the task; as a skilled nurse, you must be on hand to observe, instruct, and step in if something goes wrong.

Right Person

Don’t delegate tasks to delegatees who have not demonstrated the ability to handle those tasks. Verify that your delegatees have the skills and knowledge required to handle the task safely and correctly.

Right Directions/Communication

Clear, precise communication is important to any kind of delegation; unclear communication can directly impact a patient’s well-being. Your instructions must be clear and understandable so your delegatee can easily follow them. Answer any questions and instruct as necessary during the procedure. Expectations must also be communicated, and the results of the procedure must be conveyed to the proper people as well, according to hospital policy.

Right Supervision/Evaluation

Remember, although you are delegating the task to someone else, you are ultimately responsible for the outcome of that task. Stay on hand to supervise your delegatee and make sure that the patient outcome is a good one. Make corrections and modifications as necessary, and evaluate your delegatee’s work. Provide feedback to allow individuals to improve their skills in the future.

Nursing Delegation Tips and Strategies

Leverage Your Team

Delegation can develop team cohesion and effectiveness, which requires you to know who’s on your team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what each is qualified to do. As the 5 R’s say, assigning the right people to the right tasks is crucial to good delegation. In addition, a great way to build skills in your team is to assign tasks to people who have the aptitude but little experience, provided you’re on hand to supervise and instruct.

Respect Your Team

Practicing appreciation and respect throughout the delegation process not only helps learning, it’s also great for team-building. Get your team members involved in the delegation process by discussing your plans with them and soliciting feedback. When you provide or respond to feedback, always do so in a respectful and considerate way. When people complete tasks for you, make sure you thank them.

Observe Job Responsibilities and Qualifications

Delegate tasks only to people who are qualified to perform them and who are allowed to perform them by hospital policy. Failing to follow hospital policy can have significant ramifications for you, your delegatee, and the patient. You must also strive to avoid favoritism and delegate tasks in a fair manner; being too hard on a particular team member can create tension within the team and can also have significant patient care consequences.

Expand Your Nursing Skills

Delegation can be difficult at first, but developing your leadership skills can help you master nursing delegation. Rivier University offers online nursing degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels that are designed for working nurses to build their skills and achieve their career goals.