Healthcare Organizations Can’t Hide Behind a Magnet Designation

Healthcare Organizations Can’t Hide Behind a Magnet Designation

In a time of great competition in the post-pandemic healthcare marketplace, hospitals and other facilities are smart to find ways to differentiate themselves from the many choices consumers can access. We all vote with our feet and wallets when it comes to how we spend our healthcare dollars, and poor treatment at a hospital or clinic is a high likelihood that we’ll seek care elsewhere.

Likewise, employees also vote with their feet, and we can’t retain nurses when, despite special labels like Magnet, we allow bullying and other aberrant behaviors to thrive within a negative workplace culture.

Designations like Magnet status are ways healthcare organizations can demonstrate their striving for excellence. But what happens when an unhealthy or toxic organization hides behind something like a Magnet designation, ignoring systemic issues that fancy words, plaques, and awards won’t fix?

A Fox in the Magnet Henhouse

I recently spoke with a dedicated, well-educated, experienced, intelligent, and successful nurse who, up until earlier this year, worked for a Magnet facility somewhere in the U.S. The Magnet designation is designed to be a magnet for high-quality nurse clinicians, and this nurse is a person of great integrity and professionalism whom this employer was lucky to have on staff.

During her work on several hospital units, this individual was targeted by what we might call a “queen bully.” The bully nurse was highly experienced, had worked for the organization for many years, and was seen as a leader and an indispensable employee by the administration.

Tragically, the nurse I spoke with was psychologically traumatized by the bully and the other employees who colluded with her behavior. This nurse’s reports of being harassed were dismissed and ignored, and she eventually had to take a leave of absence to pursue psychological treatment for post-traumatic stress. Meanwhile, the bully kept her job and faced no consequences whatsoever.

Based on her egregious bullying behavior, this nurse bully should have been fired years ago. Still, managers and executives were likely scared to death of her, and if a union was involved, firing her might have proven a highly challenging avenue they were hesitant to pursue. 

Sadly, this nurse was allowed to “rule the roost” for years as a frightening and controlling fox willingly set loose in the hen house, and the nurse whom I spoke with had been one of her main targets for months.

A bully can bring down the morale of an entire or multiple units. If bullies can thrive and spin their nasty webs throughout a facility or organization, the entire workplace ecosystem and culture can be poisoned.

Confronting the Shadows

In the final analysis, a Magnet designation doesn’t make an organization great. Magnet status is also not a magic bullet or blanket blessing from the authorities that deems a facility perfect and free from flaws.

Creating a just, civil, highly functional, and effective organization may be enhanced by designations or awards like Magnet status. Yet, the hard work of making a healthcare institution a safe and happy place to work doesn’t stop when the plaque goes on the wall.

When weeding out bad actors like bullies, the administration must have the will and the backbone to confront the issue head-on. Likewise, employees must feel safe to document and report such issues without fear of retaliation or having their complaints dismissed out of hand.

No matter if a bully is a great clinician with years of experience — there must be zero tolerance for aberrant behavior, and consequences must be swift, decisive, and universally applied.

Every employee deserves to feel supported in doing their best work. They likewise need to be able to trust that they will be protected from those who would do them harm. No staff member should live in fear of bullying, discrimination, harassment, or any other type of negative treatment, and it is the responsibility of the organization to create a culture that affirms positivity and trust and rejects anything less than perfect civility and kindness.

The work of achieving Magnet status is a lovely ideal with very real-world applications when truly operationalized. However, every workplace has a shadow, and it is from confronting that shadow and cleansing the organization’s darkest corners that a more civil, functional, and effective institution arises.

Magnet status is something to reach for, but only in the context of the hard work it takes to create a workplace to be proud of that is safe for all who walk through its doors.

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!

Magnetizing High-quality Nursing Care

Magnetizing High-quality Nursing Care

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

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!

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!

Magnet Status Matters: What Magnet Recognition Means for Hospitals and the Nurses Working There

Magnet Status Matters: What Magnet Recognition Means for Hospitals and the Nurses Working There

Hospital administrators across the nation advocate the merits of Magnet designation. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, awards Magnet status to hospitals that satisfy designated criteria that measure the strength and quality of the institution’s nursing care.

What Are Magnet Hospitals?

Magnet-designated hospitals are regarded as the pinnacle of nursing practice, leadership, and innovation. A Magnet designation stands on five pillars: transformational leadership, structural empowerment, professional practice, innovation, and empirical outcomes.

More than ever, hospitals seek to attract the best nurses, physicians, and ancillary medical staff. Magnet hospitals appear to fare better with these recruiting metrics, but do the benefits outweigh the costs? The return on investment requires measurable patient care metrics, a superior nursing environment involved in hospital decision-making, and higher net patient revenue than non-Magnet hospitals. With consumers looking to hospitals for quality, hospitals seek to raise the bar with a Magnet designation as a roadmap for excellence.

Finding a Hospital with Magnet Status

With nurses becoming more valuable amid the growing shortage, nurses can leverage their demand by exploring open nursing jobs and finding a Magnet hospital that meets their needs. How do you apply to a Magnet hospital? As with any hospital, search the institution’s website and locate the nursing employment link. Use our Magnet Showcase to review Magnet-designated hospitals to research your next employment opportunity.

Safety Across the Board

Hospitals are constantly striving to improve patient safety. However, a safer work environment extends beyond patient safety through lower nurse-to-patient ratios. A Magnet appointment is an investment into a safer physical work environment for the nurses. Reduced physical injuries and decreased blood and body fluid exposure rates translate into healthier nurses and reduced costs.

Improved Outcomes

When nurses have an elevated level of job satisfaction, patient outcomes improve. Low staff nurse turnover, a path to grievance resolution, decentralized decision-making, participation in data collection, and involvement in patient care delivery encourage and reward nurses through advancement in nursing practice. A Magnet designation validates the hospital’s mission.

Reducing Burnout

The COVID-19 pandemic left the nursing landscape littered with shortages and premature departures. Nurses seek engagement and empowerment; competition is fierce for high-quality, professional nurses. As health care grows, patients are becoming more complex. Shift work is demanding, with long pressure-filled hours. If you include the mental, physical, and emotional factors that fuel attrition in nursing, obtaining a Magnet designation can lead an institution toward an increase in the quality of the work environment.

Professional Improvement

Within health care, quality improvement is a sustained culture of practice improvement. The professional development of nurses is a tenet of Magnet: having employers support nursing autonomy and empowerment can lead to cooperation in leadership and vision. To succeed in health care, interdisciplinary communication and a collaborative mission of nursing practice can result in better partnerships with hospital leadership.

The Costs

Obtaining Magnet status can be expensive for smaller institutions. It takes over four years to complete the process, with an average of over two million dollars invested by the hospital. Proponents will argue that Magnet designation will offset the associated cost with higher net patient revenue and improved outcomes. A Magnet-designated hospital receives an adjusted net increase in inpatient income of $104.22–$127.05 per discharge. This translates into an added $1,229,770–$1,263,926 in income per year. Hospitals achieve payback from Magnet Status in two to three years using this data.

Critics argue little evidence exists that Magnet hospitals’ nurses are better off compared to their non-award-bearing competition. More than an impression of nursing excellence is needed to justify the added time and cost for what some professionals consider a marketing gimmick. For nurses weighing the claimed benefits of a supportive work environment, autonomy, less risk of burnout, opportunities for education and research, and the real-world practice environment of a Magnet hospital is imperative. So, nurses, do your research.

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!

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