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The Importance of Delegation Skills in Nursing & How to Improve Them

Nurses often operate in high-pressure environments that require them to prioritize tasks and make quick decisions. This is partially due to the nature of the work, but is also affected by the current need for more skilled workers in the nursing profession. Unfortunately, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the nursing shortage in the U.S. is expected to worsen, putting even more pressure on RNs.

Although the larger issue cannot be solved by a single institution, making the investment to develop delegation skills at the individual level can help ease the burden on nurses and improve the patient experience at the same time. Understanding which tasks can be delegated to LPNs or nursing assistants can help reduce stress, improve efficiency, and allow nurses to focus on the most important duties. Because nurses are accountable for the safety and comfort of patients, delegating effectively is critical.

The Importance of Delegation Skills in Nursing

The patient experience should always come first, and nurses play a major role in ensuring that their patients get quality care. Nurses must also balance this with more administrative requirements, ever increasing staffing issues, and other competing priorities.

In many cases, nurses are responsible for tasks that others could do just as, if not more, effectively. Handing off those tasks to other qualified professionals frees up valuable time for nurses to focus on the core work for which they are best suited. Delegation also enables assistive caregivers to positively contribute to patient outcomes while lowering costs for employers.

How to Improve Delegation Skills

The healthcare industry has unique requirements when it comes to delegation, so it’s important to understand what can and cannot be delegated. For example, there are legal considerations to take into account. Nurses must know which activities the state regulations allow LPNs and unlicensed professionals to perform. These employees must also understand the limitations of their roles.

Once you know which tasks are appropriate to delegate, nurses can become that much more effective by honing their delegation skills, thereby “multiplying” themselves in a short-staffed world. Things they can do include:

  • Learning how to set and communicate clear goals to team members
  • Defining the scope for assistants who are performing delegated tasks
  • Taking personal accountability for the outcomes to which they committed
  • Learning how to coach employees as they learn new tasks
  • Understanding how to recognize the potential in employees

Learning how to delegate takes practice. It’s not as simple as just telling an employee to complete a certain task and expecting it to be done right the first time. You must be patient; help employees learn which tasks are appropriate to hand over, identify the best person for the job, clearly communicate the goal, and provide the necessary support to help them succeed.

How to Teach Delegation to Nurses

Because of the nature of the work, there is little room for error when nurses delegate. Nurses can’t test new skills on the job and evaluate the outcomes because if anything goes wrong, it can mean life or death. They have to use proven techniques that they have practiced and tested in a safe environment that does not impact the patient. For these reasons, experiential learning is an excellent approach for teaching delegation to nurses and other healthcare professionals. Experiential learning creates an immersive environment for participants to learn new concepts, practice new behaviors, and adapt them to produce the desired outcomes. Trainees leave with confidence that the skills they just learned will work in real life because they just experienced success in a parallel scenario.

When effective delegation skills are used in a healthcare setting, patients, nurses, and employers will benefit. These skills can be taught and sharpened over time to improve efficiency while ensuring patients receive the best possible care. Consider training opportunities for teaching delegation skills so nurses can practice them in a safe environment before confidently deploying them in a healthcare setting.


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