If delegation is a fundamental aspect of nursing practice why do nurses find it difficult? Part of the reason is that as the resources to provide care shrink and the environment for care becomes more complex the importance of delegation has become more apparent. Nursing care today is delivered in correctional settings by a wide variety of personnel (registered nurses, practical or vocational nurses, unlicensed assistive personnel, etc.) each with different educational preparation and scope of allowable practice. Correctional nurses also work in a very restrictive and challenging environment with a very diverse patient population which has complicated health care needs. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) identifies delegation as a “complex process of professional practice requiring sophisticated clinical judgment” (2005) and yet many nurses received little formal training in delegation during their education and employers rarely evaluate and develop nurses’ delegation skills as they do other clinical competencies (Weydt, 2010). Well no wonder nurses find delegation challenging!
The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently asked nurses what barriers to delegation they were experiencing as part of the process of updating the Principles for Delegation (2012). Three major barriers were identified and each is discussed below:
Poor partnerships: It is difficult to delegate when the nurse does not know the staff or their capabilities. It is also not practical to assess each of the staffs’ skills in all areas before making a delegation decision. Participating in the orientation of new staff is one way to get to know what skills are evaluated and to become familiar with the capabilities of individual staff. Nurses should also periodically review staff competency records. Working together is an opportunity to build partnerships with each of the staff. Good quality partnerships are correlated with improved patient safety (McCoy & Duffy, 2013).
Attitudes: Nurses express concern that delegation results in loss of control over patient outcomes. Another way of saying this is …“If I am held accountable for the patient, why should I delegate?” This was discussed in last week’s post on the principles of delegation. The staff person accepting delegation is responsible for performing the assignment and accountable for accomplishing it safely and correctly. Therefore the nurse’s accountability is for the patient, not the staff’s performance. This is because the nurse retains authority to direct the patient’s ongoing care. Knowing how to identify and evaluate patient outcomes are critical aspects of accountability and delegation of patient care. These competencies are described in Standard 3 of the ANA’s publication Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Professional Practice and can be used by nurses as a resource in developing delegation skill (2013).
Sometimes the nurse goes on to say “…especially someone I either don’t know or don’t trust?” Trust comes from concentrating on building good interpersonal relationships while working together. Delegation is an invitation to participate in the delivery of care and when delivered in a respectful and conscientious manner it promotes communication. When meaningful two-way communication is increased the quality of patient care improves (Corazini et al. 2013).
RN Leadership: The third barrier identified was lack of sufficient registered nurses to support effective delegation. Contributing factors were nurses’ lack of experience with delegation, insufficient ratio of registered nurses in the staff mix, and administrative work that supersedes clinical care. Many correctional facilities do not have a strong structure to support professional nursing practice with policies, procedures, job descriptions and other directives or guidelines that are consistent with state laws and regulations. Uninformed or ill-advised managers may not fully support a healthy workplace that includes developing the delegation potential of registered nurses. Traditionally, little focus has been placed on developing the leadership responsibilities of nurses to ensure delivery of patient care by delegating and supervising care provided by other members of the nursing staff (Weydt 2010).
The ANA articulates the expectation that correctional registered nurses are competent to delegate care in Standard 15: Resource Utilization (2013). Nurses can develop delegation skills by, first, becoming familiar with the laws and regulations concerning scope of practice, reviewing job descriptions and other workplace guidance that defines the roles and responsibilities of staff. The next step is to understand how the principles of delegation can be applied to patient care in the correctional setting. The use of a decision tool such the one included in the Joint Statement on Delegation (2006) helps guide nurses through the critical thinking that results in a delegation decision. As experience using structured critical thinking increases delegation decisions are accomplished with speed and confidence. Using simulation or case review and reflection are also effective ways to build delegation skill (Weydt, 2010). Nurses can do this on their own or with a proctor or mentor at the worksite.
Your thoughts about this subject are important to us. Do these three barriers resonate with your experience as a correctional nurse? Does your communication contribute to good interpersonal relationships? Are registered nurses sufficiently involved in clinical care to effectively delegate? 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.
American Nurses Association (2012) Principles for Delegation by Registered Nurses to Unlicensed Assistive Personnel (UAP). Silver Spring, Maryland. Accessed on 1/29/2013 at http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ThePracticeofProfessionalNursing/NursingStandards/ANAPrinciples/PrinciplesofDelegation.pdf.aspx
American Nurses Association (2005) Principles for Delegation. Silver Spring, Maryland. Accessed on 1/29/2013 at http://www.indiananurses.org/education/principles_for_delegation.pdf
Corazzini, K.N.; Anderson, R.A.; Mueller, C.; Hunt-McKinney, S.; Day, L.; Porter, K. (2013). Understanding RN and LPN Patterns of Practice in Nursing Homes. Journal of Nursing Regulation. 4(1); 14-18.
Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Professional Practice (2013). American Nurses Association. Silver Spring, Maryland: Nursingbooks.org
McCoy, S.F. & Duffy, M. (2013, March 20). Navigating the Complex World of Delegation [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/CertificationandAccreditation/Continuing-Professional-Development/NavigateNursing/Webinars/Nav-deleg.html
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
Weydt, A. (2010). Developing delegation skills. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing 2 (1)
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