HealthSeptember 18, 2014

Magnet status: Is it worth the work?

How hospitals achieve and benefit from magnet recognition.

Nursing shortages in the 1970s and 1980s prompted the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Task Force on Nursing Practice in Hospitals to identify facilities that attracted and retained well-qualified nurses.

Called “magnet” hospitals, all of the organizations identified by AAN exhibited 14 characteristics known today as the “Forces of Magnetism”. Thus, the Magnet Recognition Program® was born. Developed by the Association of American Nursing Credential (AANC), the program recognizes healthcare organizations that meet a recently-condensed set of criteria designed to measure the strength and quality of their nursing.

The forces of magnetism

Described as the “heart” of the Magnet Recognition Program®, the Forces of Magnetism provided the conceptual framework for the program’s appraisal process.  Not just focused on nursing recruitment and retention, the program aims to benefit the entire healthcare organization, as well as improve patient care and increase service to the local community. The original 14 characteristics were refined into five models for today’s Magnet accreditation:

  1. transformational leadership
  2. structural empowerment
  3. exemplary professional practice
  4. new knowledge, innovation and improvement
  5. empirical quality results

The power to transform: Identifying change

Former president Franklin Roosevelt was known as a “transformational leader”, a leader who has the power to identify the needed change, creates a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes the change in collaboration with committed members of the group.  In healthcare organizations with transformational leadership, nurses are strongly represented, serving at the executive level of the organization as decision-making partners.

Structural empowerment: “One size does not fit all”

Structural empowerment is the organizational structure, personnel policies and programs, professional development, community outreach, and promotion of a positive nursing image through the development of strong relationships. The development of all types of community organizations is vital to improve patient outcomes, as well as the health of the communities served. This is not a “one size fits all” approach -- it must be tailored to each organization's strategic plan, structure, systems, policies, and programs.

New knowledge, innovations & improvements

Magnet organizations have an ethical and professional responsibility to contribute to new knowledge, new evidence, innovations, and improvements to patient care, the organization, and the profession. Nurses in Magnet facilities have rewarding opportunities to develop evidence-based care models and lead the profession in making changes that result in improved outcomes.

Exemplary professional practice

The foundation of a Magnet organization is built on the exemplary professional practice within nursing. This entails a comprehensive understanding of the role of nursing, and the application of that role with patients, families, communities, and the interdisciplinary team.

Empirical outcomes - pioneering the future

In the future, the question to ask will be: “What difference have you made?” Magnet-recognized organizations can be the pioneers of the future by demonstrating solutions to the nation’s challenging healthcare systems of today. Categorizing nursing-related clinical outcomes, workforce outcomes, patient and consumer outcomes, and organizational outcomes is key. Empirical outcomes will essentially serve as the organization’s “report card” for a Magnet-recognized facility.

Benefits of Magnet-designated facilities

Achieving Magnet designation helps the facility, its staff and the surrounding community in so many ways, including:

  • Reinforces and recognizes the nurses’ worth
  • Boosts nursing recruitment and retention
  • Gives facilities a competitive advantage in the market
  • Attracts high-quality physicians and specialists
  • Reinforces positive collaborative relationships

Managing the Magnet momentum

Magnet® designation requires an ongoing commitment to a demanding accreditation process that doesn’t end when the facility is accredited. Maintaining and managing the momentum of the organization’s Magnet status isn’t easy. Ensuring Magnet-level nursing excellence is an ongoing process in which the successful organization will continually review and revise its programs. Once a hospital has attained Magnet status, it must continue to provide ongoing work to assure that it maintains nursing excellence. While Magnet certification covers a four-year period, the program includes interim steps to show that the facility remains in compliance with the critical requirements of Magnet status.

Is the Magnet designation the “ultimate credential” for an organization? Are the “Forces of Magnetism” too stringent in today’s already demanding environment?  Do the benefits outweigh the discipline and commitment required to successfully manage a Magnet-designated facility? Tell us in the comments below.

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