Registered nurse leadership style and confidence in delegation


Scott J. Saccomano
Herbert H Lehman College
250 Bedford Park Blvd West
NY 10468


SaccomanoS.J. & Pinto-Zipp G. (2011) Journal of Nursing Management19, 522–533
Registered nurse leadership style and confidence in delegation

Background and aims  Leadership and confidence in delegation are two important explanatory constructs of nursing practice. The relationship between these constructs, however, is not clearly understood. To be successful in their roles as leaders, regardless of their experience, registered nurses (RNs) need to understand how to best delegate. The present study explored and described the relationship between RN leadership styles, demographic variables and confidence in delegation in a community teaching hospital.

Methods  Utilizing a cross-sectional survey design, RNs employed in one acute care hospital completed questionnaires that measured leadership style [Path-Goal Leadership Questionnaire (PGLQ)] and confidence in delegating patient care tasks [Confidence and Intent to Delegate Scale (CIDS)].

Results  Contrary to expectations, the data did not confirm a relationship between confidence in delegating tasks to unlicensed assistive personnel (UAPs) and leadership style. Nurses who were diploma or associate degree prepared were initially less confident in delegating tasks to UAPs as compared with RNs holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Further, after 5 years of clinical nursing experience, nurses with less educational experience reported more confidence in delegating tasks as compared with RNs with more educational experience.

Conclusions  The lack of a relationship between leadership style and confidence in delegating patient care tasks were discussed in terms of the PGLQ classification criteria and hospital unit differences. As suggested by the significant two-way interaction between educational preparation and clinical nursing experience, changes in the nurse’s confidence in delegating patient care tasks to UAPs was a dynamic changing variable that resulted from the interplay between amount of educational preparation and years of clinical nursing experience in this population of nurses. Clearly, generalizability of these findings to nurses outside the US is questionable, thus nurse managers must be familiar with the Nurse Practice Act in their country in order to ensure proper delegation of tasks to appropriate assistive personnel.

Implications for nurse managers  It is imperative that nurse managers provide nurses with the educational opportunities necessary to develop delegation and supervision strategies to adapt to the changing RN role while adhering to differences in scope of practice. Globally, RNs are caring for increasing numbers of acutely ill patients with scarce resources ensuring an adequately trained RN/UAP team can help support optimal patient care.