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What makes Magnet hospitals different
Magnet recognition has become a symbol of nursing excellence
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By Sue Pierman
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History of Magnet
In the early 1980s, an American Academy of Nursing task force was assigned to investigate factors that contributed to regional nursing shortages in hospitals and to identify ways to improve professional nursing practices. The task force studied 41 high performing hospitals that shared common characteristics including organizational leadership that supported nursing leadership, staff nurses with autonomy and clinical authority in directing patient care, and an ability to attract and retain professional nurses, according to an overview of the Magnet program on the ANCC website.

Researchers referred to this “magnet effect,” thus Magnet hospitals. Based on the characteristics identified in the research, the ANCC established the 14 Forces of Magnetism that made up the original Magnet model and established the Magnet Recognition Program in 1993.
The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle became the first hospital that achieved Magnet status in 1994. Today, there are more than 460 Magnet organizations in the U.S. and seven in other countries. “We find a significant number of organizations desire to have the U.S. stamp of approval on their work culture, and they work very hard to meet our standards,” Doucette said. In addition to attracting top talent, improving care and fostering collaboration, the benefits of Magnet include the ability to advance nursing standards and to contribute to an organization’s financial success, supporters say. “The majority [of financial benefit] comes in cost savings from lower turnover and increased retention, and in pay-for-performance payments for hospitals,” said Doucette, referring to pay-for-performance reimbursement models that exist under Medicare, Medicaid and many private payer programs. “The better the performance, the more money is reimbursed.”
Components of the Magnet model
Continuing the Magnet journey
When patients need hospital care, they usually don’t search the internet to see if a facility has earned Magnet® recognition – but perhaps they should.
Organizations may apply for Magnet recognition every four years. Krall and her team are gearing up for a site visit from appraisers after submitting an electronic document that took about a year to write. It’s a lengthy and detailed process. “For each source of evidence, you have to give an example of how you met the standard,” Krall said. “For instance, here’s how we improved patient outcomes in the ICU, who was involved in developing the program, here’s what the pre-data was, and afterward, here is how things improved for the patient.” The UCSF Medical Center had a site visit in mid-August in its quest to earn Magnet recognition for the second time, and expects to find it out this fall if it achieved redesignation. It first earned Magnet status in 2012. Despite the exhaustive preparation, Mammone said the designation energizes staff and is well worth the effort. “Once you get recognized, everyone strives to continue to do their best in nursing research and to develop the science,” she said. “You say, ‘Look at all we’ve been able to achieve for nurses, patients and the community.’ ” Hospitals, as well as nurses and patients, get a boost from Magnet recognition, she added. “It’s a journey for the organization led by nursing, looking at how everyone intersects with one another across the organization – respiratory, dietary, all the departments,” Mammone said. “It’s about how they support nursing and how we can collaborate with one another. We never want to lose sight of our patients and each other.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sue Pierman is a freelance writer.
“The shared governance Magnet requirement means RNs are at the table when making decisions that affect their practice and determines how we care for our patients.”
— Wendy Singleton, MSN, APRN
The current Magnet model consolidated the original model’s 14 Forces of Magnetism and puts greater emphasis on evidence-based outcomes.
Magnet supporters say there are tangible, measurable differences between hospitals that have achieved the coveted status and those that have not. Magnet hospitals tend to have lower turnover and vacancy rates, a higher average length of employment and their nurses tend to be more highly educated. Most important, much research suggests they outperform non-Magnet hospitals in terms of national patient outcomes.
“We’ve earned the reputation as the gold standard for recognizing superior nursing and quality patient care,” said Jeff Doucette, DNP, RN, vice president of the Magnet Recognition Program® and Pathway to Excellence® at the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Silver Spring, Md.
As a nurse who worked in a Magnet hospital, Doucette understands why the designation is so important.
“I looked for a Magnet organization because I knew patient care would be collaborative, nurses would have a voice at the table in terms of clinical decision-making and nurses would be empowered,” he said.
Executives at Magnet hospitals across the U.S. say nurses at their facilities embrace this model.
Wendy Singleton, MSN, APRN, ANP, is director of nursing administration, clinical informatics and patient experience at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. She also is in charge of its Magnet program. The hospital recently earned the prestigious recognition for the third time. “Magnet has allowed us to create better patient outcomes and focus more on innovation and evidence-based practice,” she said. “It reinforces the importance of bedside nurses in making decisions that affect patient care. It’s improved who we are, without a doubt. The shared governance Magnet requirement means RNs are at the table when making decisions that affect their practice and determines how we care for our patients.”
Tina Mammone, PhD, RN, is vice president and chief nursing officer at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
“Getting that structural empowerment at the unit level is so important,” she said. “Our unit-based councils have the best ideas on how to address a challenge on a particular unit and how to advance nursing standards.”
Christine Krall, MSN, RN, OCN, is director for Magnet recognition and shared governance at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, which earned its first designation in 2013. During the center’s Magnet journey, its nurses cultivated their data collection skills to carefully document improvements to patient care. ““The challenge for us was getting the mindset around data collection,” she said. “As nurses, we see a problem, we fix it. But [data] puts tangible value to our nurses. We had great stories, but no data. By meeting stringent Magnet standards, the organization now has both, along with a professional practice model that puts patients and family at the center of everything nurses do.” Professional development is a key part of the program, which explains why Magnet nurses tend to have more degrees and/or certifications. Being affiliated with OSU and offering tuition reimbursement means the cancer center easily attracts nurses who are passionate about furthering their education, Krall said.
The ANCC model now consists of five components:
  • Transformational leadership, which includes strategic planning, advocacy, visibility, accessibility and communication.
  • Structural empowerment, which includes professional engagement, professional development, teaching and role development, commitment to community involvement and recognition of nursing.
  • Exemplary professional practice, which includes a professional practice model, care delivery systems, staffing/scheduling/budgeting, interdisciplinary care, accountability, ethics, diversity, safety and quality care monitoring.
  • New knowledge, innovations and improvements, which includes research, evidence-based practice and innovation.
  • Empirical outcomes, which includes a shift from structure and process to a greater focus in the areas of clinical, community, workforce and organizational outcomes.
Children's National Hospital was ranked Number 5 on US News & World Report List of Children's Hospitals in the nation! Our nurses are given the special gift to enter the sacred spaces between children and their families and they are part of the patient and family's joys and challenges. If you're interested in joining a two-time consecutive Magnet designated nursing team, we want to meet you! We have openings in various departments.
Only in pediatrics can you
save a lifetimeTM -
BeANurse@ChildrensNational.org
Children's National Hospital was ranked Number 5 on US News & World Report List of Children's Hospitals in the nation! If you're interested in joining a two-time consecutive Magnet designated nursing team, we want to meet you! We have openings in various departments.
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Contents
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Understand Magnet nursing
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Interim director discusses past and future of the Magnet program.
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The Magnet difference
Experts discuss some of the unique characteristics of Magnet hospitals.
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Find your Magnet hospital
A breakdown by state of all the Magnet hospitals in the U.S.
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Magnet has global appeal
Hospitals in other countries are seeking Magnet recognition.
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Frontline nurses take the lead
Nurses are taking on leadership roles as Magnet Champions.
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Free CE: From Novice to expert
Build your expertise by adding to your skills and experience.
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Magnet can be a lifesaver
Read first-hand account of how Magnet hospitals saves lives.
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Seeking Magnet: Pros and cons
A look at some of the benefits and costs of pursuing Magnet status.
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Improve patient care
Research suggests Magnet status can improve patient outcomes.
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Nurses battle Hurricane Harvey
Nurses at Magnet hospitals in Houston stepped up during crisis.
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Achieve accreditation
Key steps hospitals can take to help them in the Magnet process.
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Lifelong learning in nursing
Magnet program places a strong emphasis on continuing education.
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continuing education catalog
Continuing education catalog
A look at courses that can help nurses on the Magnet journey.
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APRNs and Magnet nursing
Magnet status can elevate nurse educational standards.
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When you get the Magnet call
Read testimonial from CNO of one of the newest Magnet hospitals.
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What being Magnet means
Learn about the continuing journey of the nation's first Magnet hospital.
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Achieve nursing excellence
Read stories of recent Magnet Nurses of the Year winners.
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It takes a special leader
Find out how transformational leadership leads to satisfaction.
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RNs gain support
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The Magnet culture dictates fitting education into nurses' routine.
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IOM goals are top of mind
Magnet supports education targets for 2020.
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RNs are at the helm
Transformational leadership plays big role in Magnet process.
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