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Delegation Prevents Nurse Manager Burnout

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 17, 2010

She says nurse managers do not delegate for several reasons:

  • They are afraid to add more responsibilities to an already overworked staff
  • They are afraid staff cannot complete tasks as well as they can
  • They don’t have anyone on the staff who they trust to handle the project
  • They feel they can do it more effectively and efficiently themselves
  • They fear their boss would not want them to delegate any of their jobs functions or tasks

She notes that mangers get comfortable with feeling this way, leaving them with little motivation to do anything to change the situation.

“Every day, when nurse managers continue this pattern of not delegating, they are disempowering the staff, discouraging professional accountability, sending a message that they do not respect or trust the staff, and sending a message that they believe their staff does not have the knowledge or skill,” says Cohen.

She says one way leadership can help nurse managers learn delegation skills is through role modeling effective delegation themselves. If you’re the type of person who thinks the best way to get something done is just to do it yourself, then you’re not setting a good example to your nurse managers.

Cohen says start by asking staff what they would like to see delegated and whether there are areas of your job they’d like to be more involved in. For example, nurse managers can add great insight to patient safety work or budget planning. From the nurse manager perspective, they could delegate the task of planning the unit’s staffing. Giving responsibility to a unit staffing committee can increase staff satisfaction with the schedule as they are the ones who created it.

Cohen offers the following tips for learning how to delegate:

  • Be specific—describe in detail what you are delegating and your expectations
  • Consider what you delegate and to whom
  • Start with small elements and build from there, allow staff to see successes
  • Be available as a resource but do not take over
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