Delegation is an Important Nursing Skill

If you work in a hospital or long-term care facility as an RN, you’re probably supported by LPNs or unlicensed nursing assistants. These LPNs and unlicensed nursing assistants are a critical part of the team and a great assistance. Working together, it is important to work on your delegation skills.

According to the ANA, “delegation is a complex process in professional practice, requiring sophisticated clinical judgment and final accountability for patients’ care.” The reality is that delegating is a necessary skill in nursing practice today, due to nursing shortages, rising patient acuity, and the new emphasis on patient satisfaction. As a nurse, you are a steward of healthcare resources: delegating appropriate tasks to assistive caregivers can be a cost-effective way to ensure high-quality care and good patient outcomes.

So what should you know about delegating responsibility to nursing assistants? Here are some tips:

  • First and foremost, you should know which activities can legally be delegated to an LPN or unlicensed assistant under your state’s regulations. Many tasks cannot legally be delegated to assistants because they exceed the scope of practice of these job roles.
  • If you feel uncomfortable delegating now, know that you can increase your confidence in this area by building on your critical thinking skills.
  • Realize you don’t have the capacity to do everything on your own. Successful delegation can improve your efficiency.
  • Never under-estimate the role delegation plays in safety and quality outcomes. When you feel rushed or overworked, ask yourself which tasks you can delegate to an assistant to keep your patients safe and comfortable.
  • While delegating can unburden you from tasks that others can complete, remember that you are ultimately accountable for care outcomes. When you delegate to a specific individual, be sure that person has the knowledge and skill needed to complete the task safely and effectively.
  • In general, you will be delegating tasks that do not require professional nursing assessments and judgments while they are being implemented.
  • To become a skilled delegator, consider reading a journal article or taking a continuing education course on the topic. It can help you better understand the inter-related concepts of authority, accountability, and responsibility that go into effective delegation.
  • Always consider the degree of supervision that will be required when you delegate a task to a nursing assistant. Do you have to check on the assisting caregiver periodically or when the task is completed?
  • Treat nursing assistants with respect and remember that collaborative care contributes to better outcomes. Nurses should never be combative or dismissive about the work performed by assistive staff.
  • Develop healthy interpersonal relationships with your assistive staff and remember that your communication style influences those relationships and the spirit of teamwork on your unit. The way you speak to nursing assistants can directly affect their willingness to engage with you and perform the requested tasks. If there is resistance to performing a task, try to listen and find out why.
  • Whenever it’s appropriate, recognize the contributions of support staff and thank them for a job well done.

Delegation is not just a hand-off, it’s an important leadership skill that directly affects your patients. One way to increase leadership and critical thinking skills is to empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to BSN/MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in nursing education, nursing informatics, and executive leadership