Five ways to master delegation in nursing

Recent rises in nursing shortages have given way to the emergence of drastically increased workloads and, in turn, the nurses’ need to delegate their tasks. Find out five ways to master delegation in nursing.

As a nurse, delegation involves assigning tasks or duties related to patient care that have been placed in your own queue to unlicensed assistive personnel or other medical professionals.

Often, however, these assistive personnel and other professionals are carrying equally heavy workloads, generally do not hold the same credentials as you, can misinterpret your approach or request and that can result in unsuccessful (and even detrimental) delegation.

As seen below, it is crucial as a nurse to learn why delegation is important, what you can and cannot delegate to others, how to delegate effectively and, in turn, learn how to master delegation and wear your scrubs proudly.

Know why delegation is important as a nurse

Delegation decisions can be challenging, stressful and legally charged. So why should nurses delegate at all? As a nurse, knowing why it is important and encouraged to delegate tasks is a crucial step in mastering and benefiting from it the way that you should.

Financial constraints, nursing shortages, increases in patient care volume and complexity and technological advancements have all had a major impact on our healthcare system and have created an environment in which delegation is a necessity. If appropriately used, delegation can dramatically improve burnout amongst nurses, service delivery times, patient care outcomes and much more.

Know what you CANNOT delegate

Practicing nurses have a duty of care that is taken very seriously and, as a result, they retain accountability for the outcome of the decision to delegate a task that’s been placed in their queue. It is crucial to know what you are allowed to delegate. Responsibilities related to making direct nursing judgments or actively managing a patient such as assessments, significant planning and evaluating the level of care received cannot be delegated to unlicensed assistive personnel.

Know your team, and help them grow as one

Delegating at the highest possible level requires you to know who is on your team — in a deeper capacity than just knowing their name. You will want to actively note what their strengths and weaknesses are, take the time to understand how they take in information best, know what each team member is qualified to do and learn how to establish open communication with each particular team member.

By approaching delegation decisions mindfully and knowing your team, it becomes possible to create a more encouraging and supportive work environment and significantly improve team cohesiveness.

Know the power of practicing gratitude

Actively practicing gratitude, both inwardly and outwardly, is an incredibly important part of the delegation process and should never be overlooked. Practicing gratitude, showing your appreciation and encouraging respect throughout the process can be as simple as making sure to thank the delegatee after a task is completed, or providing feedback in a way that is meant to help them grow.

Inwardly practicing gratitude is also beneficial not only to your own well-being, but to the way that you delegate, as your requests will be backed by genuine gratitude that is likely to create a feeling of instant gratification for the delegatee and act as a motivator. 

Know The Five Rights of Delegation

The American Nurses Association has developed what is known as The Five Rights of Delegation in order to assist nurses in making safe delegation decisions. As a nurse, you should know these well enough to actively and efficiently review them in your head before deciding to delegate a task.

1) The right task

The task being delegated must fall within the job description and range of practice of the delegatee, and they must have fluently and frequently demonstrated competency in both performing and evaluating the outcome of the task that’s being assigned to them.

The types of tasks that are generally delegated are standard practice tasks, with predictable outcomes and minimal potential risks.

2) The right circumstances

In the decision to delegate, it is crucial to involve a careful analysis of the patient’s needs and the circumstances surrounding them prior to getting a delegatee to take over any tasks related to said patient. If condition changes occur at any time, it’s important that the nurse reassess the situation and possibly reassess delegation decisions as well.

3) The right person

It is necessary to ensure that the person a task is being delegated to is the right one. The delegatee of any task must possess and have previously demonstrated possessing the knowledge, skills and ability to perform the task being assigned to them.

Along with what the delegatee brings to the table, equally important is making certain that as the delegator, you have provided them with the necessary resources to perform and excel at the task you are assigning.

4) The right communication and direction

You should never assume that your delegatee knows what to do or how to do it — even when it comes to routine tasks. Each and every instance of delegation is unique, and there are always factors to consider that are specific to the patient. By communicating performance expectations precisely, explaining situations directly and outlining instructions clearly, detrimental misinterpretations and delegation decisions can be better prevented.  

5) The right supervision and evaluation

From ensuring compliance to policies, procedures and standards of care to following up and receiving reports on outcomes, it is important to remember that as the delegating nurse, you are accountable for your tasks even once they have been assigned to someone else.

Defining your delegation skills

Sharing and shifting tasks in a team can create more manageable workloads and relieve burnout, improve team cohesiveness, encourage insights into roles and responsibilities and so much more. Mastering all of your tools, skills and knowledge as a nurse probably wasn’t easy – think back to your first time using a stethoscope.

That being said, it made your career a possibility and now you use your stethoscope every day with skill and finesse. Mastering delegation is no different and is crucial in advancing your career and mastering all other aspects of your career and life as a nurse.

Photo by Patty Brito