The Five Rights of Delegation

Question listThe post last week included a case example about a licensed practical nurse (LPN) responding to a medical emergency after an altercation between two inmates. The LPN determined that neither inmate required further medical attention. Later in the shift one of the inmates was taken to the emergency room after being found unresponsive in the cell. The inmate subsequently died of the head injury that was sustained in the altercation. This example highlighted the registered nurse’s role in the assignment and supervision of patient care. Correctional nurses use their knowledge of state regulations defining the scope of practice for personnel assisting in the delivery of patient care as well as the employers’ expectations (job description, post orders, policy and procedure) to assign and supervise these personnel.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) describes correctional nurses as responsible for direction of patient care including the assignment and delegation of tasks to others (2007). These responsibilities are unchanged in the draft of the 2013 edition of the Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice which was posted at http://www.nursingworld.org/Comment-Correctional-Nursing.html.aspx. Delegation has been described as an essential skill and yet is one of the most difficult responsibilities of a registered nurse. It is a complex process that requires sophisticated clinical judgment about the patient care situation, the competence of staff and the degree of supervision required (Weydt, 2010; NCSBN, 2005).

There are many resources available to help nurses build skill and competency in delegation of patient care tasks. The state board of nursing is an excellent first resource as well as the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website which can be accessed at https://www.ncsbn.org. A resource suggested in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing is a framework for delegation from the NCSBN referred to as the Five Rights of Delegation (1997). These are discussed in relation to the case example from last week’s post.

1. Right Task: The nurse makes an assessment of the patient or a group of patients and determines that an activity can be delegated to a specific member of the health care team. Knowledge of state practice acts and agency directives are essential when making decisions about what patient care tasks can be delegated. In the case example the registered nurse’s decision to have the LPN respond to the medical emergency was problematic because the LPN was required to assess and make a complex clinical decision about the inmate’s need for medical care.

2. Right Circumstances: The nurse’s assessment of the patient or group of patients also identifies the health care need(s) to be addressed by the delegated task(s) and the goal or outcome to be achieved. The nurse’s decision about which task(s) to delegate matches the staff’s competency and level of supervision available. The registered nurse in the case example did not assess the patient’s needs or identify the outcome to be achieved by the task that was delegated to the LPN. The nurse also made no judgment about what level of supervision or monitoring would be appropriate in the circumstance.

3. Right Person: The registered nurse considers the skills and abilities of individual personnel in making decisions about delegation of tasks. The registered nurse works with each member of the team to improve performance and implements remedies when performance is below standard. In the case example the LPN had considerable experience responding to medical emergencies at the correctional facility and had worked in the emergency department at the local hospital. The registered nurse did not understand that monitoring or supervision of the LPN’s performance was required as part of the state practice act and expected by the employer.

4. Right Communication: The registered nurse communicates specifically what, how and by when delegated tasks are to be accomplished. Communication includes the purpose and goal of the task, limitations and expectations for reporting. In the case example there was no meaningful communication that took place between the RN and LPN. The LPN was not expected to communicate assessment data to the nurse and no limitations on the LPN’s actions were stipulated. The LPN reported the conclusion that both inmates were “okay” but was asked no follow up questions by the RN to amplify the basis for the decision. The LPN did not communicate with the registered nurse when the inmate was later found unresponsive even after the “on call” physician was called.

5. Right Supervision: The registered nurse monitors and evaluates both the patient and the staff’s performance of delegated tasks.  The registered nurse is prepared to intervene on behalf of the patient as necessary and provides staff feedback to increase competency in task performance. In the case example the RN had several opportunities to monitor the patient’s care and to intervene but failed to do so. The nurse was unaware of the responsibility to monitor and supervise the LPN in the performance of the delegated task. The nurse said that the LPN always provided the response to medical emergencies and did not think the RN could alter this “assignment”.

Conclusion of the Case Example: The agency policies, procedures and the description of job duties were consistent with state practice guidelines but were too general. The nurses were not familiar with the nurse practice act and had simply continued practices on the evening shift that had been in place at the time, including staff defining the duties that they were most comfortable performing. The “after action” review resulted in increased staff knowledge of the nurse practice act, coaching of the nurses on delegation of tasks, and increased communication between staff on shift about the goals and process of patient care.

Your thoughts about this subject are important to us. Have you had experience clarifying nursing scope of practice in correctional health care?  What tools or resources did you find most helpful? Please share your experience and advice in the comments section of this post. For more information and discussion about correctional nursing order your copy of the Essentials of Correctional Nursing directly from the publisher. Use Promo Code AF1209 for $15 off and free shipping.

References:

American Nurses Association. (2007). Corrections Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author

National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the American Nurses Association. (2006). Joint Statement on Delegation. Retrieved December 31, 2013 at https://www.ncsbn.org/Delegation_joint_statement_NCSBN-ANA.pdf

National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (1997) The Five Rights of Delegation. Retrieved December 26, 2012 from https://www.ncsbn.org/fiverights.pdf

Weydt, A. (May 31, 2010). Developing delegation skills. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 15, No. 2, Manuscript 1 

Photo Credit:   © igor– Fotolia.com

6 thoughts on “The Five Rights of Delegation

  1. Right on with the importance of delagation along with knowledge of nurse practice act in your state. This is not emphacized in orientation like it should be.
    Thanks for the information and awareness. Gayle

    Like

  2. I wonder how many new employee orientation programs include a review of the nurse practice act and it’s application in the correctional health care setting? Seems like it would help nurses in preparing to work with correctional officers, medics, EMTs etc.

    Like

  3. Does LPN administer medications. Do they monitor patients that are unconscious and patients with chest tubes. What is a lpn job description. What is a patient care assistance job description

    Like

    • Thanks for your questions and comments. The work performed by LPNs is defined by the laws regulating nursing practice in your state. Look to your state practice act first, then if you have more specific questions talk with a staff member of the board of nursing in the state where you are practicing nursing. Generally LPNs can administer medications if delegated to do so and under the supervision of a registered nurse. Again in a general sense a registered nurse may delegate to an LPN responsibility to monitor a patient who is unconscious or who has chest tubes but this decision to delegate is made based upon several specific factors such as the skill of the LPN, the condition of the patient and the availability of clinical supervision provided by the registered nurse. A patient like this is likely though to have a condition that is more acute and likely to change requiring a degree of vigilance that an LPN may not have sufficient training or expertise to apply so the registered nurse must be prepared to care for a patient with these needs. Job descriptions describe the kinds of work that staff should be competent and prepared to perform. Job descriptions should be consistent with the laws stipulating the types of tasks that can be performed by various types of health care personnel. A job description for an LPN should describe the work performed by LPNs at a facility. A patient care assistant is generally not a licensed health care provider but may be required to have a certificate of training to assist in the delivery of health care. These personnel are under the direction and supervision of nurses but should also have a job description of the work commonly performed by this type of personnel. I hope this information is responsive to your questions.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Principles for the Delegation of Nursing Care | Essentials of Correctional Nursing

  5. How can the five [5] rights of delegation be used to break down barriers to effective nursing care?
    I need to know in details.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s