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Delegation in Nursing: How to Build a Stronger Team

5 min readSeptember, 07 2023

If you want something done right, you need to do it together. As a nurse leader, it can often feel like you have too many tasks on your plate and need more time to complete them all safely and effectively. That's where delegation in nursing comes in.

Keep in mind that delegating tasks isn't the same as assigning them. Assigning a task refers to giving a specific responsibility to a team member with the skill set to accomplish it safely and effectively. Examples include taking vitals, documenting patient information, and administering meds. When nurses assign a task, they're ultimately responsible for its outcome.

So, what is delegation in nursing, and how does it differ? When you delegate a task, you transfer accountability to a qualified team member to safely perform a specific task or activity. A registered nurse may delegate certain functions to a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Unlicensed Assistive Personnel (UAP), or other licensed healthcare member on the team. That person assumes the authority to make decisions. However, the person who delegated the task is still responsible for the overall process and should offer guidance, support, and an honest assessment of the individual's performance.

Why Is Delegation Important in Nursing?

Registered nurses have many responsibilities. Nursing shortages, technological advances, increasing complexity in patient care, and continuous changes in healthcare have made delegating in nursing essential. This time-management skill can help ensure your patients are safely cared for — and may improve outcomes if used appropriately. Nurturing your delegation skills isn't only useful for you but also for your patients and your staff.

Potential benefits of delegation in nursing include:

  • Empowering employees
  • Decreasing burnout
  • Increasing commitment
  • Improving job satisfaction

When you delegate, you show your staff that their talents and contributions are valuable to the team, your patients, and the organization. By trusting them, your employees will likely take on greater responsibilities and be more willing to learn new skills to enhance their professional growth.

Delegating Tasks in Nursing

Delegating requires you to entrust the authority and responsibility of a specific task to other staff members. Before delegating, consider the type of care needed, the circumstances, staff competence, and the functions permitted within each staff member's scope of practice. Effective communication and critical thinking skills are necessary to determine how and what to delegate.

How to Improve Delegation Skills

Effective delegation is a skill that can take time to master, but it's essential for effective leadership and staff growth. Fortunately, ANA developed Principles for Delegation by Registered Nurses to Unlicensed Assistive Personnel (UAP). This document provides strategies for RNs to draw from when determining which tasks to delegate.

The Five Rights of Delegation Include:

1. Right task
Consider which tasks are legally appropriate to delegate and permitted by your organization's policies. Not all tasks can be delegated. If there isn't a designee with the proper skill set, you could open yourself up to mistakes and safety issues. Avoid delegating tasks that:

  • Require specific nursing judgment and decision-making skills
  • Fall outside the caregiver's scope of practice, the nurse practice act, or state regulations
  • Violate the organization's policies and procedures
  • Expose private or personal information about co-workers or patients that should not be shared

2. Right circumstance
Assess the care complexity of the patient’s needs before delegating the task to ensure appropriate resources, equipment, and supervision are available. For example, if the patient is at high risk for aspiration, a task such as feeding them may not be appropriate to delegate to a UAP.

3. Right person
Identify and match the individual who can best complete the job based on ability. Validate their capabilities by determining if they have the knowledge, skills, and time to complete the task. You can evaluate their confidence level by asking if they've encountered problems in the past while performing the job and if they've completed it without supervision.

4. Right supervision
The Nursing Practice Act requires you to provide appropriate supervision for all tasks delegated to your team members. Make sure they give you feedback after each job gets completed. Remember, you're responsible for evaluating the outcome of these tasks and overall patient outcomes.

5. Right direction and communication
Clear communication is essential to ensure the designated individual understands the delegated task. They need to know what it entails, when it needs to be completed, details regarding documentation, and what the patient's limitations and expected outcomes are. Confirm these factors before allowing the staff member to assume responsibility. Assure them they can complete the delegated task successfully and safely, offer advice and support, and emphasize the opportunity for growth.

A male nurse and a female nurse are standing in the hallway of a hospital. They are looking at information on an electronic tablet in the male nurse’s hand.

Evaluate and Provide Feedback

Once a task has been completed, evaluate the outcome and identify areas for improvement. Share feedback with the team member and acknowledge their achievements while providing constructive feedback.

Effective delegation involves ongoing collaboration, communication, and trust. You can deliver safe, quality care that benefits your staff, patients, and the organization by evaluating outcomes and making necessary adjustments.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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