6 Steps to the Art of Delegation

Delegation is a critical skill in the success of a nurse manager.

When talking about delegation with managers and charge nurses, I often hear “I’d rather do it myself.” This discussion is in the context of time management, saying there is not enough time to do everything. Why the disconnect?

For some, delegation comes easily. Lightening their workload is not a problem. ‘I am the boss and they do the work’. For others, it is not so easy. As part of the team, everyone is busy so adding work to others is only done with good reason. Many feel guilty delegating and worry they are dumping on their colleagues.

The breakthrough comes by realizing it’s not reasonable to do all the work themselves. Delegation is an essential skill for a manager/charge nurse. Sometimes you must hand off work to the team so it gets done.

Delegation is a sign of trust.

You ask a colleague to perform a task you feel confident they are competent and capable of doing well. Engaging the help of your staff build skills, develops employees, shares the workload and prevents backlogs.

Delegation is more than just telling someone to do something; it is an art and a science. The art has to do with interpersonal communication and team building skills. The science has to do with legal and licensure issues for registered nurses.

The Art of Delegation

  1. Delegate the objective; not the procedure. Team members may feel micromanaged if you tell them how or what to do.
  2. Delegate to the right person and don’t always delegate to the same person. Everyone knows what employees say yes to helping. Give them a break!  Choose someone else to build their skills.
  3. Clarify expectations. Make sure the person to whom you are delegating understands clearly what must be done and how soon.
  4. Check to see if the person needs additional resources to complete the task. Checking to see how someone is doing gives you the assurance the task is being completed. Ask in a kind manner, let the person know you care about their progress.
  5. Express gratitude. Say thank you at the time you delegate and again when the task is completed.
  6. Be available for questions and give the appropriate feedback, so they know how they did and that you are not leaving them to fend for themselves.

The Science of Delegation

It goes without saying; you must choose someone competent and with the right licensure. The staff person must demonstrate the required knowledge, skills, ability.

The delegated task must be within the scope of practice for the individual and not prohibited by law. You are bound by your state’s nurse practice act.  Safety is paramount. The delegated task must be safe and appropriate for the patient at the time.

According to the American Nurse’s Association Code of Ethics for Nurses

The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse’s obligation to provide optimum patient care.

In the end, it is the manager’s responsibility to delegate not only to get the work done efficiently but to create a team, engender trust and grow the potential of each team member. Getting things done through and with other people while helping develop them in the process is a sign of leadership.

“Managing Self” discusses this topic and much more. Register for the next session of this valuable class.


Rosemary Homer RN, MBA, is the founder of the Northern Illinois Healthcare Education Network, a collaborative continuing education network that offers a variety of education opportunities to nurses and other healthcare professionals. Rosemary’s 40+ years of experience includes bedside nursing, management, educator and consultant. She has helped managers and staff create an environment which retains and develops employees by building on the basic concepts of trust, respect and open communication.

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