Hospitals designated through the Magnet Recognition Program® live up to their name—they attract and keep nurses thanks to the nursing-focused strategies at the organization’s operations’ foundation.
Since the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) launched its inaugural Magnet pilot program in Seattle in 1994, the designation has become the highest recognition for a hospital’s nursing department. The rigorous application process comes only after organizations commit to the highest quality of nursing and patient care with established initiatives and programs.
Nurses who work in Magnet hospitals are supported throughout their careers and given the skills and opportunities needed to move up the career ladder, says Susan Fisher, DNP, APN-C, ACNS-BC, CNOR, NE-BC, and director of the Clinical Excellence & Magnet Program at Jefferson Health. “Magnet wants nurses at the table,” she says. “It is not a top-down approach. They have to include bedside nurses at the project-planning level.”
Fisher says Magnet hospitals differ for many reasons, including an approach to nursing practice and standards that expect nurses at every level to practice at the full span of their licensure. With a nursing model that is based on both collaboration and autonomy, nurses find they work within a structure that lets them use their experience and education to assess and treat patients based on standing orders and provides an environment where peers and leadership model career advancement and lifelong learning. And it’s not a one-and-done approach—Magnet hospitals only hold the designation for four years, after which they need to reapply.
Once organizations are Magnet-designated, keeping the status is important because healthcare consumers and professionals recognize it. “A Magnet-recognized organization is one in which the continued education and development of its nurses is highly valued, leading to improved patient outcomes and care,” says Rebecca Graystone, vice president of the Magnet Recognition Program and Pathway to Excellence Program® at the ANCC. “Magnet recognition is not merely an award or a badge of honor. It is steadfast proof of a hard-earned commitment to excellence in healthcare, with contented, valued, and inspired nurses at its heart.”
With all the programs and initiatives necessary elements of Magnet recognition, nursing in these organizations is much more than a job. “Magnet-designated organizations are recognized for the phenomenal work their nurses are doing for the profession, clinical outcomes, and for their nursing practice,” says Angelina Fakhoury-Siverts, chief nursing officer at City of Hope, a hospital that received its third Magnet re-designation in January with exemplar status in 12 categories. “It’s not just some recognition that doesn’t mean anything. We don’t want people to strive to be Magnet; we want people to strive to do the work Magnet recognizes.”
Because Magnet encourages nurses in their immediate role and with an eye to their future potential, nurses are frequently expected to see how their work fits into the organization’s processes holistically. “Magnet lends itself to the ability to be innovative and not just task masters,” says Fakhoury-Siverts. “You start to think of nursing differently.”
Although Magnet organizations are known for having high hiring standards, including a standard practice of hiring nurses with a BSN, Fakhoury-Siverts says nurses without a BSN shouldn’t be discouraged from applying for positions in Magnet hospitals. Graystone agrees, saying, “The Magnet Recognition Program provides a framework and encourages organizations to have 80 percent of their nurses attain BSN registration, but a BSN is not a hiring requirement set by the Magnet Recognition Program; each organization decides that. Magnet’s 80 percent BSN goal aligns with the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Initiative.”
Because Magnet hospitals are focused on lifelong learning and continuing to improve a nurse’s knowledge and practice, supporting continuing education is part of the core Magnet approach and something nurses are encouraged to pursue. “The Magnet Recognition Program provides a roadmap to nursing excellence, which benefits the whole of an organization,” says Graystone, noting that only 10% of hospitals in the U.S. are Magnet-designated. “Every organization is unique and different, but what we can say about the culture of Magnet organizations is that there is a commitment to excellence and an accountability for improved patient outcomes that is embraced by the whole nursing body.”
The pathways to career advancement may look slightly different for every nurse, but at Magnet organizations, there is a roadmap for making that advancement a reality. The novice nurse is supported in a Magnet organization on all fronts—with residencies to help them transition to practice, educational opportunities, peer support, and role modeling that encourages their success. As a veteran nurse, earning an advanced degree, gaining certification, or moving into a leadership role are all encouraged and mapped out with planned pathways to help that happen. The mix of nursing experience brings a valuable perspective and ensures a diverse hiring practice.
Even if a nurse has never worked in a Magnet hospital, there are some ways to prepare and conduct a job interview that will show a personal investment in the nursing profession. Asking questions directly related to Magnet principles, including support for career-boosting continuing education or certification, will help the hiring managers see a candidate as someone already committed to the rigorous, evidence-based practices so important in their organization.
“Ask what the nursing care model is, if they have shared governance, and if they have opportunities to be part of a unit-based council. You should also ask how the organization supports evidence-based practice and how nurses impact key decisions,” says Fakhoury-Siverts. “Those kinds of questions will resonate highly at Magnet organizations.”
The supportive and forward-thinking model is critical to Magnet hospitals as it helps prevent burnout and increases job satisfaction, says Graystone. “Working in a Magnet organization is also different for nurses because these organizations are committed to a framework for excellence that sets goals and requires evidence-based measurements and outcomes,” she says.
Fisher advises nurses to look at any potential employer carefully, even if they don’t have a Magnet designation.
“Don’t just look at the money,” she says. “Look at what comes with the money. Will they support you?” Nurses can think about how a nursing practice can grow when they’re not just encouraged but expected to contribute experiences and opinions to the daily operation—no matter what the experience level. “As CNO, I can’t make decisions on nursing practice if I don’t know what is happening at the bedside,” says Fakhoury-Siverts. “That bedside nursing is front-line nursing.”
Magnet designation is more than recognition of a job well done. Fisher puts it simply, saying, “I would want nurses to know that coming to a Magnet hospital means they will be practicing nursing the way nursing is meant to be practiced.”
Read the October issue of Minority Nurse focusing on the MSN and Magnet Hospitals here.
We’ll be at the 2023 ANCC National Magnet Conference® October 12-14 at the at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. Stop by booth #918. We look forward to seeing you there!