Depending on the role of the nurse (NP, RN, LPN), nurses can delegate tasks to the appropriate level depending on their scope of practice. A nurse can essentially delegate any time when help is needed; however, they may only do so if the task is appropriate for their skill level.

A nurse can delegate to a higher or lower scope. An example of delegating to a higher scope might include an RN asking an NP for a diagnosis so the RN can provide care instructions. An RN might also ask an NP to diagnose for purposes of treating. For example, if a patient arrives at urgent care complaining of a sore throat, and the RN assesses and feels the patient may have strep throat, he or she may ask the NP to examine and diagnose so the patient can be treated.

RELATED: Collaboration with Interdisciplinary Team: NCLEX-RN

Another example of a nurse delegating to a higher scope is if a charge nurse encounters problems with a coworker that is not resolved by speaking to him or her. The charge nurse may escalate the issue higher and ask the nurse manager to intervene.

Nurses may also delegate tasks to those with a more narrow scope of practice. For example, an RN might delegate PO med passes to the LPN. An LPN may delegate tasks such as ambulating or feeding a patient to the CNA.

The question of when a nurse should delegate is dependent on many factors. Usually, nurses delegate when they need help to prevent patient care delay. For example, an RN might be tied up with admitting a patient and ask the LPN to pass PO meds for him or her. In the example above involving a charge nurse and problematic coworker, the nurse delegated when action was needed that fell out of his or her scope of practice.

RELATED: How is the Scope of Practice Determined for a Nurse?

Another example of when a nurse can delegate is if a task conflicts with personal beliefs or other personal issues. For example, a nurse who strongly opposes birth control may delegate the task of birth control counseling to someone else. A nurse who may be asked to care for a patient on comfort care may ask to switch assignments if he or she has experienced a recent loss.

When delegating tasks, it's important that nurses are familiar with the scope of practice laws in their state. Asking someone to perform a task, or agreeing to do a task that is outside one's scope of practice can lead to discipline by the appropriate board of nursing and possibly by the employer. However, nurses inherently want to help, both patients as well as each other. Therefore, appropriate delegation benefits both nurses and patients.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
Latest posts by Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN (see all)
  • Nurse Manager Leadership Recommendations for Staff Engagement and Success - January 2, 2018

Our Visitors Found These Nursing Topics Useful

Senior couple sitting next to each other holding a tablet or IPad about to talk with nurse

We’ll Meet You Where You Are: Benefits of Virtual Healthcare

During this time of healthcare uncertainty, it's more important than ever to meet patients where they are. An increased focus on achieving and maintaining connections between patients and providers is critical. While the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis has changed federal…

Nurse Opioids

Nursing and the Opioid Crisis

Nurses are directly affected by the opioid crisis on many levels. Addressing and managing pain is a cornerstone of nursing diagnosis and treatments. Nurses utilize many non-prescription methods of pain management such as repositioning, ice, heat, massage and guided imagery.…

Lend Your Ears: How Nurses Can Benefit From Binaural Beats

What if I told you that music can deliver more than just comfort? That it can rewire our brains and make the quality of our lives better? This concept is called binaural beats, and it's begun to gain widespread support…

Protecting Our Own: Nurses and Workplace Violence

The recent #MeToo movement has certainly brought violence against women into the media spotlight. This crusade has highlighted the importance of not only speaking out against such acts that were once kept quiet but also offers solutions for protecting those…

Beyond the Bedside: Nurse Navigator

Nurses have numerous options beyond caring for patients in a hospital setting. Communities need nurses throughout the continuum of care; from preventive health services to complex disease states. When patients and their families are facing a health crisis, nurses are…