For almost three decades, hospitals across the US have been able to seek Magnet recognition – a coveted yet very exclusive honor that speaks to the organization’s preeminence in nursing. Holding this prestigious designation awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is essentially the gold standard of nursing excellence. While all hospitals aim to attract more patients, nurses, and other medical staff, Magnet institutions seem to fare much better on this front.
How successful is a hospital’s Magnet status in attracting nurses? How valuable is it for your nursing resume and for your career being a Magnet nurse? More importantly, are there any real benefits for you as a professional to working in a hospital that holds this title?
These are just a few of the questions we’ll answer in this article. Before we can analyze the benefits, concerns, and other aspects of Magnet status, it’s worth taking a moment to see what the whole designation is about.
First thing’s first: what is the Magnet Recognition Program?
What is the Magnet Designation?
The Magnet Recognition Program was introduced by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in 1990 to award healthcare organizations that display and foster quality nursing and contribute to the creation of successful nursing practices and strategies. It’s essentially a badge of honor proving an organization’s commitment to nursing excellence. This is not an easily-achievable status.
For hospitals to receive magnet status they must demonstrate excellence in five different areas:
- Transformational leadership: This requires that the institution have Nurse Leaders at every level.
- Structural empowerment: The contributions of staff must be recognized; decision-making needs to be decentralized.
- Exemplary professional practice: In all professional procedures, systems, and practices one must demonstrate competence and accountability. Care and nursing outcomes must also be systematically measured.
- New knowledge, innovations, and improvements: Research and evidence-based practice need to be incorporated into operational and clinical processes.
- Empirical outcomes: The emphasis should be on community, patient, workforce, and organizational outcomes.
It is excellence in these five categories that acts as a magnet – attracting and keeping the most qualified nurses – which further leads to all-around improvement for the institution.
How Exactly Does a Hospital Receive Magnet Recognition?
As of May 2021, almost 9% of the hospitals in the US are designated Magnet. Or, in other words, only 547 of the 6,090 US hospitals currently hold this badge of honor. So, it’s an exclusive circle, customarily recognized for its excellence. So much so that out of the top 20 hospitals listed on the US News Best Hospitals Honor Roll, all 20 are Magnet hospitals.
Judging by the numbers alone it’s clear that receiving the Magnet status is no walk in the park. So, what is the actual process?
Obtaining the Magnet designation is a lengthy and resource-intensive process. On average, it takes over 4 years to complete the application and be granted the recognition. The financial aspect is not to be overlooked either. The average cost of getting the accreditation is $2,125,000. The serious investment on time and money may be part of the reason why such a low percentage of US hospitals hold the designation.
In order for Magnet recognition to be granted, as part of the rigorous application hospitals must fulfill the next criteria:
- Higher proportion of satisfied RNs
- Lower turnover rates and vacant positions
- Increased nurse autonomy
- Improved patient satisfaction.
What does Magnet mean for nurses: Advantages for RNs
Multiple studies have demonstrated that the ACNN recognition is not just for show and there are actual benefits for nurses working in Magnet status hospitals. The very foundation upon which the designation is built is that contented nursing staff leads to overall better results. Higher job satisfaction leads to lower nurse attrition and it consequently has a direct impact on the quality of care. Also, at Magnet organizations there are generally higher nurse-to-patient ratios, a higher percentage of nurses with more advanced degrees, fewer temporary staff – and a combination of all these factors leading to a better work environment.
All of these are solid arguments in favor of Magnet hospitals as a desirable workplace for nurses. Here are some more benefits for RNs who choose to go the Magnet route:
Higher job satisfaction
One of the most convincing reasons for pursuing a job in a Magnet hospital are the higher levels of job satisfaction. A study conducted on the differences in nursing outcomes in Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals discovered that Registered Nurses who work in Magnet accredited hospitals were 18% less likely to be dissatisfied with their job compared to their counterparts working in non-Magnet institutions. That is due to Magnet hospitals having better work environments, which are generally associated with higher levels of job satisfaction.
Another factor that improves job satisfaction is having RNs in leadership positions within magnet institutions. Since the nursing workforce is directly involved in the decision-making processes, it helps with their ability to initiate and enact changes favorable to nurses and increase their satisfaction.
Magnet designation doesn’t only mean increased safety for patients. It also grants a safer work environment for nurses. A study conducted by the Gallup organization found that Registered Nurses working in Magnet hospitals suffer from significantly fewer workplace injuries and have lower rates of body and fluid exposure. These results were corroborated in the Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses.
Less chance to experience burnout
Burnout is one of the most taxing problems that RNs face. The mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that nurses face due to their demanding job, long hours, and pressure-filled environment is bound to take a toll on nurses’ wellbeing.
The study we mentioned previously on the nursing outcomes in Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals also found that the probability to experience burnout was 13% less prominent in nurses working in the ANCC accredited institutions. It’s definitely reassuring to find out that as far as work environment is concerned, there are less stressful alternatives available.
Continuing support for professional improvement
Another very important element of a successful workplace is fostering a culture of sustained improvement. It really makes a difference when your employers support your professional development and that is one characteristic of working at a Magnet location. Nurses there have greater autonomy, are empowered and given more chances to get involved in decision-making processes. There is a focus on nurturing interdisciplinary communication and collaboration which leads to the improvement of all the professionals involved. For instance, the results of a 2019 study show that excellence in nursing performance is positively linked to the physicians’ performance. Great nurses improve doctors’ work – all to the greater benefit of the entire healthcare system.
Another defining characteristic of Magnet hospitals is the collaborative practice, with nurses being seen as partners in the healthcare experience. Likewise, a focus is put on investment in nursing education and development. That leads to better and happier nurses.
What Does Magnet Recognition Mean for Organizations?
Nurses are not the only ones who can gain from working at a Magnet hospital. The hospital does as well. There are plenty of reasons for organizations to go after Magnet recognition. Although the process is lengthy and costly, the advantages are notable.
Upfront, there are lower rates of RN turnover. Nurses who are satisfied with their jobs will remain longer in employment at one place. Also, vacancy rates will drop. Some other cost advantages in Magnet organizations include lower length of stay for patients and higher inpatient income. So this badge of honor also works wonders from a business perspective.
What Does Magnet Status Mean for Patients?
One of the most important effects of the Magnet designation is on patient outcomes. Multiple studies have documented the difference between Magnet and non-Magnet institutions in terms of patient outcomes – and the results speak for themselves.
A 2013 study comparing 56 Magnet hospitals with over 500 other hospitals across the US has shown that mortality rates were 20% lower in the first category. There are improved patient outcomes in other areas, as well. Fewer medication errors, fewer failure-to-rescue, lower patient fall rates, fewer hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, less need for post-surgical treatment for general surgery and orthopedics. Also, there are at least 7% fewer safety-related incidents and accidents happening in Magnet organizations compared to their non-award bearing counterparts. All in all, the benefits of Magnet status on the patients’ well-being are multiple and noteworthy.
What’s the Connection Between Magnet Status and BSN Requirements?
Working at a Magnet hospital may be very high on any nurse’s wish list. Besides the reputation, they have better work environments, higher rates of nursing satisfaction, less burnout among RNs, better salaries and benefits, and abundant opportunities for professional development. But there’s a catch: Magnet hospitals have a strong preference for BSN-educated nurses.
For starters, in order to qualify for Magnet status, 100% of the Nurse Managers working in a Magnet hospital must have a BSN or graduate degree in nursing. While the ANCC does not specifically require that other nurses hold a BSN, almost 50% of the direct care RNs hired by Magnet institutions do hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Magnet hospitals are also more likely to hire BSN-educated nurses for some positions that don’t necessarily require a BSN. While the fine print doesn’t mandate BSN as the minimum educational requirement, there is an undisputed preference for it in the industry.
Are There Disadvantages to Magnet Status Hospitals?
When making a decision about a potential workplace you must have all the facts, so, in this section, we’ll discuss the other side of the coin: the critique these hospitals sometimes receive. For sure, the Magnet designation is not without its criticism.
A 2010 study from the University of Maryland School of Nursing discovered little to no correlation between Magnet status and nurse working conditions, work schedules, hours, and job demands. According to that study, Magnet hospitals don’t provide better working environments for RNs. Even then, the researchers recognized that nurse retention was more favorable among Magnet hospitals and that could potentially be attributed to positive practice environments, including adequate staffing, organizational support, and satisfaction with supervisors.
Some critics also mention that claims of stronger nurse empowerment at Magnet hospitals might not be completely factual. However, according to research, the evidence linking the Magnet status to nursing excellence and better outcomes far outweighs the criticism.
Do You See Yourself Working At a Magnet Hospital?
Many Registered Nurses aspire for a chance to work at a Magnet-recognized organization. Afterall, who wouldn’t want their place of employment to have a great reputation and be acknowledged for the outstanding quality of health services offered? Magnet institutions are environments where RNs feel engaged and empowered to deliver excellence. This is dream job material for a nurse.
The competition to get a nursing job at one of these facilities is fierce. One thing that can put you ahead of the competition is a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. A BSN will not only make you more marketable, it will help you become a better nurse. And that’s exactly what Magnet organizations are after: nurses with potential who are ready to lead healthcare change.
If working for a Magnet hospital is fairly high on your priorities-list, it is worth investing in advancing your degree.
Increase your chances of securing that Magnet dream job by enrolling in Nightingale College’s RN-to-BSN program. We’re here to help you achieve your professional goals.