How To Master Nursing Delegation

by | Sep 1, 2020 | New Nurse, Time Management | 1 comment

This is so important! Nursing delegation frees up your mind so you can focus on the most important tasks first. Here’s how to master it.

How To Master Nursing Delegation

What Is Nursing Delegation?

After learning how to talk to physicians and figuring out time management, delegation was my biggest challenge. 

What is nursing delegation? It’s the ability to assign tasks to other people – and hold them accountable for if they do them.

Imagine this: you walk onto a unit as a brand new nurse and you have to delegate to CNA’s who have worked there for years.  You want to build good relationships with them because you will rely on them heavily, but you have to make sure to hold them accountable for their tasks because it’s ultimately your license on the line.

This article explains what it is in a very easy-to-understand way.

How To Master Nursing Delegation

Yes, it’s one of the most important things you’ll have to do as a nurse. Why is it so stressful? I know this stress first-hand. And I know how I overcame my anxiety and became a pro at it too. You can too!

My Background

I was a tech in a nursing home for a while, a volunteer (the lowest position on the hospital food chain), a nursing student, and a student nurse intern.  I was basically a tech for 3 years in various settings prior to my nursing career beginning 3 years ago.  Gah, that was no walk in the park, but it really made me keenly aware of the responsibilities and experiences of my cohorts.

How I Screwed Up

I tried to do as much as possible on my own without bothering the techs.  I’d get out late, take too long with each patient, and never get things charted in a timely manner. I was overwhelmed and overworked.  This was all because I was too scared and too nice to delegate to the tech screwing around on Snapchat, staring at his schedule for hours, or trying to become BFF’s with every doctor that walked on the unit.

Crazy, right?

You’d think that nursing license would come with some courage!

Ultimately, my patients suffered because I was unnecessarily stretched too thin.  This did not last long.  Once I gained some confidence as a nurse and built some rapport with the techs, the delegation began to flow like fine wine.

How I Fixed It

This is how I fixed all of this with some good ‘ol nursing delegation.

Tell Them What Need To Get Done

I started telling my techs what they need to get done in a matter of fact, it’s all business kind of way rather than asking.  It’s not personal; we just have a lot of crap (ha!) to do today. 

Say Thank You

I say thank you 900 times a day. I believe you can’t say it too much! Tell people you delegate tasks to how much you appreciate them.

Focus On Education More Than Reprimanding

If they didn’t alert me to something immediately, forgot to tell me/do something, or just handled a situation wrong, I would focus on education rather than coming down on them.

Hey, I saw that bed 70’s pressure was through the roof when you were doing your vitals and hour ago.  Next time, let me know when you see something above 160 right away, because I have medication I have to give immediately if it’s that high.  I don’t want him to blow that brand new graft he got yesterday!  K, thanks.  You’re awesome.

Treat Them With Respect

If I expect to be treated with respect, I treat other with respect and treat them the same.  I do not treat nurses differently than techs.  No one is better than anyone; and the people that treat others like that suck.

Communicate Quickly With Nursing Delegation Changes

If my prioritization has quickly changed and it affects my tech’s/teammates plan, I let them know right away because they may not pick up on my newfound urgency.  I don’t assume that they know what I’m thinking; and doing so can put your patients at risk if you need things done ASAP.

Hey, I know you were going to go do a bath and start your vitals, but bed 20 doesn’t look so hot, I need to call the doctor with a fresh set of vitals.  Can you go grab those first before you knock out your bath and other vitals?  Thanks!

Do Things Yourself

If I have time to something that my patient needs and my tech is busy, I don’t spend 20 minutes looking for them to go do something I’m perfectly capable of doing.  Gah.. I hate people that do that.

Put Patient Care First

When a tech isn’t on the top of their game, is rude, etc., I put my patient care first and then deal with it.  Sometimes, something at home has rocked the boat and they’ve just got a lot going on.

Hey, I noticed you’re not all here today, but our patients and myself need you to be.  Are you doing okay?  Life okay?

I always try to make them feel like they’re part of the team.  Because they are.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, nursing delegation is tricky. You need to earn respect by giving it first. Be clear and yet still hold them responsible. It’s a very delicate thing, but once you practice it a few times, you’ll be a pro at it too!

Want to get ahead of the game and ease your anxiety about your first nursing job?

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Resources on Nursing Delegation:

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

1 Comment

  1. Susan E Bartlett

    Yes! I’m working on saying a lot more “Thank you” ‘s


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