Accepting, Rejecting & Delegating a Work Assignment: A Guide for Nurses
Individual nurses, nurse supervisors, chief nurse executives, and employers all have responsibilities that contribute to safe, effective patient care. Key responsibilities of licensed nurses [244 CMR: 3.00] and organizations involved in the provision of nursing care are summarized below.
The individual nurse:
- Determines and maintains nursing competence consistent with the NPA and Board regulations.
- Provides competent nursing care to patients.
- Exercises informed judgment and uses individual competence and qualifications as criteria in accepting responsibilities, seeking consultation, and delegating nursing activities to others.
- Clarifies assignments and assesses personal knowledge, skills, and abilities prior to accepting a work assignment.
- Seeks assistance and/or additional training if gaps in knowledge, skills, or abilities are identified. If necessary, negotiates options for all or part of the work assignment when appropriate training and supervision are not available to meet immediate patient care needs.
- Communicates the need for alternate means of care when patient needs exceed the individual nurse’s knowledge, skills, or abilities, or other available resources.
- Delegates only those activities which are within the nurse’s area of responsibility and competency to delegate. Assesses the needs of patients and the documented competency of unlicensed personnel prior to delegating nursing activities. [244 CMR: 3.05(4)].
- Refuses to engage in nursing activities that are beyond the parameters of the NPA, and/or the nurse’s education, capabilities, and experience.
- Does not (cannot) accept responsibility and accountability for an unlicensed individual performing a nursing task that has been delegated by another nurse or individual.
The nurse supervisor:
- Evaluates the knowledge, skills, and abilities of nursing staff to provide care.
- Identifies nursing care requirements and organizes resources to ensure that patients receive appropriate care.
- Collaborates with the nurse to clarify work assignments. Also collaborates with the nurse to assess knowledge, skills and abilities, and options for performing a work assignment or components of it when the nurse judges the work assignment to be beyond his/her competency.
- Provides education to staff and supports the decision-making process regarding patient care assignments and reassignments, including patient placement and allocation of resources.
- Provides the nurse with documented competencies of unlicensed personnel.
The chief nurse executive:
In collaboration with nursing personnel, establishes a system for provision of care which includes defining a model of nursing practice that:
- Determines competencies of licensed and unlicensed nursing staff.
- Supports the provision of competent nursing care to patients.
- Provides for periodic re-evaluation of the competency of individuals to whom nursing tasks are delegated.
- Determines the competency of nurses to delegate or accept a work assignment.
- Recognizes that the final decision regarding delegation of specific tasks or accepting a work assignment is within the scope of the individual nurse’s professional judgment.
- Institutes screening procedures, hiring practices, and education and training, which assure the provision of safe care by nurses and unlicensed assistive personnel.
- Conducts ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the quality of patient care.
- Defines roles and responsibilities of all categories of caregivers.
- Provides a formal process for timely review and resolution of conflicts related to work assignments.
- Assures that resources are adequate to meet patient care needs.
- Initiates internal or agency disciplinary action for violation of policies and procedures of the facility.
Professional Regulatory Considerations
Nursing, like all professions, regulates itself through professional standards of practice, certification and an ethical code.