THE IDEA OF A "Magnet" hospital first arose in 1983 with a study of 163 hospitals. Forty-one of those hospitals seemed to attract and retain nurses better than the others. Researchers began to investigate what gave certain facilities their magnetic qualities.
An attractive idea
The idea grew. In 1990, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) was formed to provide credentialing services through the American Nurses Association. In 1994, the ANCC awarded the nation's first Magnet recognition to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle (still a Magnet hospital today).
As of October 2008, just under 5% of all U.S. healthcare organizations hold Magnet status. The 293 facilities with Magnet status excel at 14 "Forces of Magnetism." See Fourteen powerful forces.
What the official surveys say
Of the top 10 U.S. News & World Report hospitals for 2007, 70% had Magnet status. When Nursing2007 published results of a job satisfaction survey in December, nurses working at Magnet facilities consistently rated their employer higher than those working at non-Magnet facilities, especially in the areas of nurse satisfaction, nurse presence on committees, a culture supportive of nursing, evidence-based changes in practice, and access to clinical reference tools. Although nurses gave Magnet facilities a higher rating by about 20% on these items, overall job satisfaction for Magnet employees was only 6 percentage points higher (41%) than for non-Magnet employees (35%). Nursing2007's survey results indicated that working at a Magnet facility might not get you a higher wage-but the great benefits make up for that.
Now let's consider how two veteran nurses view 'life after Magnet.'
The view from the trenches
Nancy Dobbs, RN, CWOCN, MEd, has worked for 23 years at Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. Natasha Delehanty, RN, has worked for 13 years at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, N.Y. Both hospitals achieved Magnet status in 2005. Both nurses agree that the nursing culture where they work has improved since 2005. At Mercy, "we now have a care model, councils, research, and improved interdisciplinary relationships with physicians and other departments in the facility," says Dobbs. "Not only has this changed nursing, but it has changed the entire hospital environment to ensure the delivery of quality care to each and every patient."
At St. Peter's, Delehanty feels "now more than ever that nursing has strong and effective representation on planning and policymaking bodies within the organization." She notes that nurses are "more involved in data collection and decision making in patient care delivery," and are noticed and rewarded for advancing their careers.
What change came hardest?
Dobbs says that Mercy struggled to involve bedside nurses in research, but thanks to an active research committee, nurses are "no longer afraid of the word 'research.'" Delehanty notes that adequate staffing is always a challenge, but Magnet status has definitely helped in recruitment and retention.
A flowering of committees
Both nurses confirm rumors that Magnet status means many new committees-but they cite benefits of this extra work: Greater autonomy and empowerment through greater involvement; broader perspectives; and new ideas stimulated by improved interdisciplinary relations.
Both nurses feel Magnet status has brought significant, positive changes. As Dobbs put it, "It's wonderful to be excited about going to work and making a difference."
Source: Spotlight on Magnet hospitals. Nursing. 2008;38(3):56-R1 and Nursing. 2008;38(7):56r.
Fourteen powerful forces
These 14 dimensions must be present for a facility to receive the prestigious Magnet rating:
* nursing leadership
* organizational culture
* management style
* personnel policies and programs
* professional models of care
* quality of nursing care
* continuous quality improvement
* consultation and resources
* nurse autonomy
* community presence
* nurses as teachers
* the image of nursing
* interdisciplinary collaboration
* professional development.
Source: Magnet Recognition Program: Application Manual, American Nurses Credentialing Center, 2004.