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What is a Magnet hospital?

What is a Magnet hospital?

Healthcare professionals discussing patient care in a hospital stairwell.

If you needed to get an operation or receive some sort of care from a hospital and had the ability to choose where to go, what sorts of criteria would you consider to find the best option? Of course you would want an organization that accepted your insurance, had the speciality offering that you needed, and maybe you would look into the facility’s U.S. News & World Report rankings. What about how the hospital ranks in regard to its nursing team?

If you’ve been working in the healthcare industry, you’ve likely heard the phrase “Magnet hospital” and know that it’s supposed to denote a certain level of quality within the field. In short, the designation indicates the “gold standard” of nursing excellence based on certain characteristics deemed to be conducive to fostering high-level nursing talent and promoting high-quality care. A hospital’s Magnet status can play a role in patient decision-making about where to seek care but it’s also a key factor to be aware of as a nurse when looking for jobs. Being a Magnet hospital is all about attracting top talent and patients–hence the name “magnet.”

What does being a Magnet hospital mean?

The Magnet Recognition Program was created by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to identify healthcare organizations that provide nursing excellence and to disseminate successful nursing practices and strategies among healthcare organizations.1

The concept of a program to identify work environments that attract and retain well-qualified nurses started in 1983. The American Academy of Nursing (AAN) conducted a study to determine the characteristics that distinguished these organizations, calling them “Forces of Magnetism.” In 1990 the program was built upon the findings of the study and named the Magnet Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing Services, with the University of Washington Medical Center becoming the first ANCC Magnet-designated organization.

The program has been iterated upon and restructured many times since its inception and in 2002 the was officially renamed The Magnet Recognition Program. Changes to the program include expanding to include long-term care facilities like rehab centers and nursing homes and also to recognize health care organizations outside of the United States.2 Over time some aspects like the standards required to be designated Magnet and the types of data and evidence hospitals must submit to receive recognition have also changed.1 Overall, however, the end goals of the program remains the same1:

  • Promoting quality in a setting that supports professional practice
  • Identifying excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients
  • Disseminating “best practices” in nursing services

How many hospitals have Magnet designation today?

As of June 2022, 9.4% of hospitals in the US are designated members of the Magnet Recognition Program. In total, 591 organizations including 576 in the US, 13 internationally, and 2 ambulatory care institutions are designated Magnet organizations.

What are the expectations of the Magnet Recognition Program?

While there were originally 14 Forces of Magnetism, in 2008 a commission of the ANCC restructured the program to group the Forces into five key components.2, This updated model puts a bigger emphasis on measuring outcomes and allows for a more streamlined process for hospitals applying to receive designation by simplifying the documentation required. The five Model components include:

1. Transformational Leadership: This component gives recognition to the fact that the health care system is constantly in flux and needs leaders who aren’t just quick to respond but working several steps ahead of change to prepare their organizations for what’s next. Today’s healthcare leaders aren’t just responsible for meeting the status quo but to be innovating at the root of the organization’s culture. Similar to leaders in other industries who have been navigating the employment challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare administrators must also learn the tenets of successful change management. As the ANCC website explains, “It is relatively easy to lead people where they want to go; the transformational leader must lead people to where they need to be in order to meet the demands of the future.”4
2. Structural Empowerment: In regard to fulfilling this component, the ANCCN writes that “one size does not fit all.”4 The focus of this characteristic is all-encompassing and encourages organizations to have a solid mission, strategic vision, procedures and policies that all align to promote a culture of excellence however that best suits each individual institution. This component also puts an emphasis on the importance of strengthening practice via relationships and partnerships with external organizations to work together to elevate the level of care available to a community.4

3. Exemplary Professional Practice: Previous Forces of Magnetism including Professional Models of Care, Consultation and Resources, Autonomy, Nurses as Teachers and Interdisciplinary relationships are all tied together in this component. One of the most straightforward components, it hones in on the core work of nurses and emphasizes using best practices in all areas of the profession.4

4. New Knowledge, Innovations, and Improvements: While the previous components can be considered building blocks for excellence, this component focuses on the goals or outputs of being a Magnet Recognition Program organization. Exploring care and practice models, quality improvement efforts, and continuing to find new evidence and new applications for evidence based practice in the science of nursing are all critical for fostering a dynamic professional environment of care.

5. Empirical Outcomes: The Empirical Outcomes component envelops the others to be both the result of those efforts as well as providing goals to aim for. The ANCC explains that, “the question for the future is not ‘What do you do?’ or ‘How do you do it?’ but rather, ‘What difference have you made?’” Because the Magnet program previously focused on strengthening processes within hospitals, assuming positive outcomes would follow, there wasn’t a reliable set of benchmarks to use to measure others. As the organization pushes to set these standards they’re trying to leave the definitions for measures of success flexible but categorized in terms of clinical outcomes related to nursing; workforce outcomes; patient and consumer outcomes; and organizational outcomes.4

Why does Magnet Recognition matter for nurses?

Becoming a Magnet hospital is a rigorous process that requires a huge investment on the part of hospital leadership of many levels. This dedication, as well as the Magnet status, can signal to nurses that the organization sees their nursing staff as a critical part of the team. Additionally, Magnet status is shown to have many organization-wide benefits including1:

  • Job satisfaction and employee retention rates are higher at Magnet-recognized organizations (which also results in lower costs for the organization)
  • Magnet-recognized organizations employ the best-trained and most qualified nurses
  • In studies of Magnet environment characteristics, more positive practice environments have been associated with higher nurse-perceived quality of care and higher nurse-perceived unit effectiveness
  • More positive practice environments have been associated with higher patient satisfaction with nurse communication, availability of help, and receipt of discharge information
  • Patients also see better outcomes including lower mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue, lower fall rates, lower nosocomial infections, lower central line-associated bloodstream infection rates and lower length of stays

How to get a job at a Magnet hospital

Employment opportunities for nurses at Magnet hospitals are highly-desired roles. One way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to earn a higher nursing degree such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Master of Science in Nursing, to demonstrate to hiring managers that you’re prepared to deliver the highest level of care that they expect. The online RN-BSN and online MSN programs at Oklahoma City University can help you earn a coveted spot at a Magnet hospital. With the top-ranked nursing program in Oklahoma, you can be assured you will learn from experts who’ve been in your shoes and can help you within and beyond the classroom to achieve your career goals. Schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor to learn more.

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