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Seasoned with Sage
Don’t Dump . . . Delegate!

I talked with one new nurse who said that 50% of the time she was really good at delegating. The other 50%?  She admitted, “I end up doing the task that a CNA should be doing—because I’m not strong enough to insist upon it. And then I beat myself up, because I realize I should have persisted. I wouldn’t fall behind on my work if I would use the help made available to me.”

Many new nurses feel lousy because they can’t get CNAs or other nurses to rally to their requests. That’s because often what a nurse might perceive as appropriate delegation may come across as dumping.

“Dumping” vs. “delegating”—what’s the difference?

Let’s say I get to the end of my shift, and I’ve been chitchatting with other nurses at the nurse’s station for the past 30 minutes. I walk up to the CNA and say, “Hey, I need A, B, C, D, and E all done…now!” This is shameful “dumping”—all because of a nurse’s mismanagement of time. “Dumping” usually happens when a nurse doesn’t plan, doesn’t anticipate a day’s workload, or wants to save face for not getting everything done that he/she knows should’ve gotten done—and was capable of getting done.

Delegating, on the other hand, is about appropriately having other people do tasks for you. To determine if it’s appropriate, ask: Is it something that a CNA is hired to do? Is it something that if taken off my plate will allow me to do my job better? And, how do I get the delegated person ready for it?

You might answer these questions at the beginning of your shift. Sit down and think about the day ahead of you. If you know you’re going to be especially busy that day, consider how you can have a CNA specifically help you out. Then assign them tasks at the beginning of the shift. Let them know your expectations, and assure them you’ll be checking in on them throughout the day.

During these regular “checkpoints” you’ll be able to see what’s not getting done—and why it’s not getting done. Maybe there was a miscommunication, and you need to clarify your expectations. Or maybe the workload is too cumbersome, and you’ll need to lighten the load. But build respect among your CNAs by listening to them and supporting them when they’re overwhelmed.

Being nice goes a long way in developing mutually respectful—and productive—relationships.

Read more Seasoned with Sage articles

3 Responses to “Don’t Dump . . . Delegate!”

  1. Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN Says:

    A “please” and “thank you” really goes a LONG way in getting others to help you as does praise for a job well done.

    Dumping is not fair, and will gain you no respect. Also just because something you have to do is something a CVA could do such as “bedpan service”, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Nurses who think they’re above doing these things gain the respect of no one!

    Delegating is about TEAM work. I always found that when we were most overwhelmed, if we worked as a TEAM and did many things in tandem, we got it all done together. Asking the CNA to help you with your tasks and doing them together may get them done more efficiently and help you to gain some respect.

    This is especially useful if the CNA is also a student nurse or thinking about continuing his/her education. Asking them to assist you with a procedure that you can’t delegate can also speed you along as well as offer them a learning opportunity and to see you in your role as the nurse.

    Additionally, if they watch you “in action” and get to know that you are a great nurse, they’ll be more willing to help you get things done so you can be that great nurse to other patients, and not get bogged down with tasks they can do for you.

    Whenever you have an opportunity, take a moment to help the CNA with their tasks too (without being asked) and you’ll develop a strong TEAM. Be the example!

    And don’t procrastinate asking for help. The earlier you can do it, the better for all of you. Always try to get your hardest or most time consuming tasks done early. This is especially true of anything you don’t want to do. Get it out of the way, and the rest of your shift will be easier because you’re not weighed down by dread!

    author of The Everything New Nurse Book

  2. Yvonne L. Sims CNE Says:

    I am in the role as nurse educator at this time, but when I did perform duties on the nursing unit I was told by one CNA on that unit that I thought I was above her. I mentioned to her that I did not feel that way, but that we all had roles and she needed to stay in hers. So often she would try to inform the patients about a procedure and she did not know the full implications.

    I mentioned this to my director and she only said we needed to work this matter out and truly did not provide any support for the nursing staff. I do not know whether this was because she was not a nurse, but a radiology technician that was given this position. This is a private facility and I am currently in another position as a nurse educator that through observation on other units I am discovering the nurses are not utilizing there time wisely, because they are doing duties that should be delegated to the CNA’s. Are we seeing too much of this in our current practice setting? There is little or no support from the nurse managers and I do remember when we did not have CNA’s and more managers need to be firmer in their positions as managers. Thanks!

  3. Carrie Says:

    As a CNA/SN, I just want to say, I have been on the receiving end of “dumping” and delegating. I have worked with CNA’s that see ALL delegating as dumping. Mostly in the younger ones, but some of the older CNA’s as well, usually they have been CNA’s for years, and quite frankly are burned out and have no education or skills to do another job, when truthfully, they need to get out of the field altogether.

    As a SN, I am becoming more and more aware of what the RN job entails, and realize even more just how important the CNA’s job is to the nurse. A good CNA is a Godsend, a CNA with attitude makes the RN’s job 10 times harder.

    I see that the RN’s job entails assessment, medication, follow through on orders, lab results, family and patient interaction, doctor/nurse relationship issues, administrative issues, patients going sour, and yes patient care that is often seen as CNA work.

    CNA’s, you are working under the RN’s license and he/she is responsible to see to it that all these things are done efficiently and effectively. If you as a CNA don’t do your job well, the RN has to do it, as it is ultimately his/her responsibility.

    Not all nurses are nice, just as not all people in the world are nice. That is not a reason to get an attitude, or to do your job poorly. It only makes you into a not nice person.

    Step up and be the greatest CNA you can be, and you will be respected and appreciated. And yes in some cases you will not get that respect and appreciation but you are responsible for how you feel about what you do. You cannot rely on others to make you feel good about yourself, or about what you do.

    Take responsibility for yourself, act professionally even when those around you don’t. You must make your own happiness, and this is where the true rewards are.

    God Bless You all,

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