Any nurse, new or seasoned, can feel overwhelmed at times at work. It can be a challenge to learn the art of delegation. Without it though, a nurse can become fatigued, stressed, and depressed. On the other hand, delegating tasks effectively can improve coworkers’ ability to work together as a team. Not only that, but delegating can improve the response time to patients’ needs, which in turn, improves patient satisfaction. Isn’t that why we’re all doing what we’re doing, to make patients feel cared for and feel better?
Entrusting and empowering someone else to do a part of your job is a learned skill. As a nurse, when you delegate, you are showing your coworker that you have trust and confidence in their abilities. You are giving them a chance to become better at what they do and improve their skills. Delegation, however, has an accountability piece to it that means that you, as the nurse, must follow up and make sure the task was done completely and correctly. Patient safety and patient well-being are the focus here. At the end of the shift, you are responsible for everything that happens with your patients’ nursing care. If you are working with a nursing assistant that is new to working with patients, you have to do more follow up. This can also give you a chance to give that assistant a pat on the back or some supportive direction. We are all a team and must learn to work together for the benefit of the patient.
There are many things to consider before the delegation process begins. Here’s a checklist you can use the next time you want to delegate efficiently:
Decide what task you want to delegate.
Choose who should carry out the task, are they capable, is it in their scope of practice.
Decide when the task needs to be done; is the patient ready, is there a deadline like getting a patient bathed before a procedure.
Explain how the task needs to be done such as documenting all input and output for a patient, encourage the coworker to ask for help if needed.
In a recent correlational research study1, with a convenience sample of 362 nurses, ambulating and feeding patients on time and doing mouth care were the tasks most missed by nursing care. The reasons behind it were short-staffing, lack of material resources, and communication. These tasks are some of the most basic needs that we can do for our patients. These are also some of the most basic tasks that can be delegated.
You go into work one day, get your assigned patients, and realize the unit is short-staffed that day because a nurse and an aide called out sick. Their replacements won’t be there for another four hours. So for those first four hours, you’re slammed!! Quickly you have to think on your feet! Findings2 revealed a tendency for nurses to delay the decision to delegate but no one nurse can do it all. So you start to think about delegating to your competent coworkers. Make sure they understand what they need to do for the patient and follow up to make sure it gets done. Our patients depend on us at their most vulnerable times to take care of them. It’s not their fault that we are short-staffed. We need to work together as a team and support each other in the process.
Delegating can be often easier said than done. You as the nurse have to uphold the accountability that your patients are receiving quality nursing care on your watch. Ensure that each team member is aware of what the task is that they are being asked to do and what is expected of them. At the same time, be approachable in case the coworker needs help. Help team members understand the level of commitment that you want from them but don’t be a mean nurse. There is nothing worse than working with someone who has no respect for their other team members. Remember, the nursing field is not just a job but its a commitment to our patients. Provide support to your team members and give positive feedback to a job well done.
Five Rights of Nursing Delegation
1Missed nursing care and its relationship with confidence in delegation among hospital nurses
2Improving patient care outcomes through better delegation-communication between nurses and assistive personnel