The Magnet Recognition Program credential is a coveted, but hard won, achievement for many hospitals. The program requires volumes of documentation that take months to collect. It demands consistent attention to all nursing issues, constant vigilance of patient satisfaction and patient outcomes, a concerted effort to keep nursing enthusiasm fired up at all times, to say nothing of dipping into hospital pocketbooks for Magnet registration fees.
And unlike many accolades, once you achieve it, you don't rest on your laurels. You immediately plunge in and begin the process all over again to earn redesignation.
So why, in the past 20 years, have 378 hospitals across the U.S. sought and achieved Magnet status, a certification conferred by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to hospitals that demonstrate excellence in nursing practice?
Nurse leaders in Magnet-designated facilities agree the process is expensive - depending on the number of beds in a facility application costs can run anywhere from less than $14,000 to more than $50,000 - while constant documentation requires substantial extra work and keeping staff motivated toward Magnet is challenging. But, they say, all this effort is merited.
In speaking to several facilities, many of which boast Magnet firsts in their city or states, Hospital for Special Surgery's Stephanie Goldberg, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, sums it up. "It is absolutely worth doing. It gives clarity to what is important to nurses and patients. And it provides me with a framework to do my job," said the senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer of the 172-bed facility, which was the first in Manhattan to receive Magnet in 2002.
Worth the Effort
Building a strong framework was exactly what prompted Rich Hader, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Meridian Health, to apply for Magnet.
Appointed chief nursing officer at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in 1995, just a year after the Neptune, NJ, facility had been through a 98-day nursing strike, Hader knew morale was low because of the walkout. "I had read an article about Magnet and I thought what an outstanding blueprint for an organization. I talked to management and sold them on this as a great opportunity to heal, since a lot of good work was being done here."
Hader knew this from experience; he began as a nursing assistant at Jersey Shore in 1980. He saw three Meridian Health hospitals earn Magnet - Jersey Shore in 1997 and both Ocean Medical Center, Brick, NJ, and Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, NJ, in 1998 - making Meridian the first system in the country to have all its hospitals named Magnet. (The network has since grown to six entities with 1,200 beds.)
Now working on Meridian Health's fourth Magnet redesignation - the certification must be renewed every 4 years - Hader admits, "It's a lot of work; I couldn't even begin to estimate the man hours it takes. But it is worth it. Believe me, people want to work for an excellent organization. Magnet provides the foundation and cultural transformation for a constant state of excellence."
And, in the midst of an economic recession, Hader suggests nurses at Meridian Health are flourishing. "Nursing staff is not being laid off; we're not closing the doors as other New Jersey hospitals have. We pay for nurses to get national certification and they get a $2 an hour increase when they pass. These are things we would never have been able to pull off, to get financial approvals, without the whole commitment to excellence."
Others, such as Goldberg, say Magnet is essential to the bottom line in terms of nurse retention - in New York City nurse turnover can be as high as $60,000 per nurse - and "soft-cost savings, such as prevention of pressure ulcers and fall injuries. If you don't have an environment that prevents those things, then what does that cost the institution?" Goldberg asked rhetorically.