The Magnet designation for hospitals emerged in 1990 under the auspices of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a strategy for catalyzing and recognizing the highest possible standards for quality nursing care.

Since its inception, Magnet has given ambitious hospitals something concrete to strive for. Magnet has also allowed nurses to identify facilities that deliver optimal patient care while creating positive workplace cultures for nurses who care about their work and what their employers stand for.

Walking the Talk

As of this writing, fewer than 600 hospitals hold Magnet status, and since there are over 6,000 hospitals in the U.S., we can see that Magnet status remains the exception, not the rule.

Magnet standards make sense when we consider what makes a hospital stand out. We can understand why some nurses are drawn to seeking employment at facilities prioritizing achieving and maintaining Magnet status.

From another perspective, while Magnet designation is an impressive achievement, we can be sure there are plenty of excellent non-Magnet hospitals where nurses lead satisfying and robust careers while delivering outstanding care. However, there are Magnet-designated hospitals where things may not be as perfect as they might like us to believe, and much work remains to be done for those institutions to walk their talk.

As boots-on-the-ground professionals, nurses know the inner workings of healthcare employers and facilities. While a certificate from a certifying body is all well and good, nurses want to see the evidence in their day-to-day environment. What aspects of Magnet do nurses want to see and experience? A few might include:

  • Shared governance
  • Quality improvement initiatives
  • Advancement of nursing practice
  • An emphasis on evidence-based practice
  • Transformational leadership
  • Career advancement and a leadership track
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No matter where they work, nurses want to feel respected, acknowledged, and rewarded for their dedication. They want a workplace free of incivility and to be treated as more than just cannon fodder on the front lines of the battle against disease.

Hospital organizations that walk their talk hold nurses in the highest esteem. Seasoned nurses are recognized for their expertise and institutional memory, and new nurses are embraced as the representatives of the future that they truly are. Everyone’s place should be valued, and nurses should feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves, but where individual gifts hold meaning.

Like Attracts Like

When we consider the nature of a magnet, we think of how a magnet attracts objects with similar properties. In contrast, those unlike the magnet are repelled or completely unattracted by the magnet’s force.

Imagine being a fly on the wall of the brainstorming sessions that occurred in the late 1980s when the ideas that led to Magnet status were still gestating. The concept of magnetism may have yet to emerge immediately during those conversations. Nevertheless, many ideas may have been floated in those early days, and who knows how the process eventually resulted in magnetism bubbling to the surface.

These days, we’re accustomed to the notion of a Magnet hospital. Acute care facilities want their nurses to be the best, and savvy patients aware of the Magnet designation may seek care at facilities holding such status.

Focus on Quality Nursing Care

If approximately 10 percent of American hospitals are Magnet-designated, what are the remaining 90 percent focused on, and what do their nurses experience? Do they feel that something is missing? Perhaps. Are there non-Magnet community hospitals without the resources to dedicate to pursuing Magnet status that still shines like healthcare stars? Without a doubt. Are there facilities where satisfied patients receive optimized, high-quality care from incredible nurses devoted to doing their best every day? Absolutely!

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We all know that certification is no panacea — institutions are bureaucracies made up of people, and human beings (and many bureaucracies) are inherently flawed. Still, doing one’s utmost to achieve a worthwhile goal can give meaning to our work, and a collective dedication to Magnet certification can empower everyone.

If you work at a Magnet facility, consider whether it meets your expectations. And if you work at a non-Magnet hospital, how does your hospital show up on the positive side of the quality equation? Hopefully, your employer sees you for who you are, values your contributions, recognizes your gifts and pays you well for your dedicated service.

You can be a human magnet for positivity, excellent nursing practice, high-quality patient care, and a happy, satisfying career. And if the Magnet process is part of making your career successful, all the better.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column. 

We’ll be at the 2022 ANCC National Magnet Conference® October 13-15 at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. Stop by booth 2018. We look forward to seeing you there!

Keith Carlson
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