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  1. Upenieks, Valda V. PhD, RN


Magnet hospitals, so named because of their ability to attract and retain nurses, have been operating for nearly 20 years. Although research on their success, particularly related to job satisfaction and retention of nurses, is available, research on magnet nurse leader effectiveness has been limited to the pivotal role the nurse leader plays in supporting a magnet culture. To enhance the research groundwork in magnet hospitals and nursing leadership, 16 nurse leaders from magnet and nonmagnet hospitals were interviewed. They were asked to identify leadership qualities they considered valuable in today's healthcare setting. The author contrasts the opinions of magnet and nonmagnet leaders relating to their leadership traits, organizational structures they discern as being supportive of professional nursing practice, and their perceptions of how a successful organization is created.


A work environment that fosters an autonomous and professional nursing practice is essential to increase job satisfaction among clinical nurses. 1-3 Successful implementation of an empowered environment rests with the nurse leader's ability to create a constructive atmosphere, which involves the implementation of supportive infrastructures that encompass trust, accountability, and open communication. In this way, clinical nurses are allowed the autonomy to make decisions and foster practices in accordance with professional nursing standards. 4-5 Thus, a progressive nurse leader can shape a hospital service through his/her value system and zeal for nursing. 6


Magnet hospitals are designated facilities that have been certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center for their excellence in nursing practice. They are recognized as institutions with "better than average" measures of nursing job satisfaction and patient outcomes because of their distinguished organizational characteristics (Table 1). 4 These hospitals maintain well-qualified nurse executives in a decentralized environment. There is strong leadership and advocacy for nursing service administration. Their organizational structures emphasize open participatory management and use professional practice models for the delivery of nursing care. These hospitals offer an autonomous, self-managed, self-governed climate that allows nurses to fully practice their clinical expertise. In addition, there is a framework for career development and education opportunities for nurses to increase their level of clinical expertise or restructure their nursing career focus. 4,5


Certain attributes among nurse leaders are more effective than others in producing outcomes related to an empowered environment; these have been frequently reported in the literature. These attributes include credibility, passion for the nursing profession, and self-confidence. 2,7 Magnet nurse leaders who are successful in their roles are identified as supportive, visionary, knowledgeable, visible to clinical nurses, responsive, and able to preserve power and status within the hospital system. 2,6 These leaders are valued throughout the organization, and thus given power at the executive level to foster a positive professional environment for nursing. Accordingly, magnet nurse leaders exert a measurable effect on the morale and job satisfaction of the nurses whom they support. 6