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Magnet® and Pathway to Excellence®Professional Development

Going for the gold: The value of attaining Magnet recognition

By: Karen Drenkard, PhD, RN

Magnet Recognition® from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the highest and most prestigious distinction a healthcare organization can receive for nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. With only 8% of U.S. hospitals earning the Magnet designation, it’s clearly the gold standard. But exactly how does Magnet recognition contribute to improving a hospital’s bottom line?

Magnet status isn’t a prize or an award. It’s a performance-driven recognition credential. Achieving it brings not only external prestige but wide-ranging internal benefits. Evidence is mounting that taking the Journey to Magnet Excellence™ has a dramatic impact on quality, service, cost, and human resource measures. It enables healthcare organizations to:

  • promote quality in a milieu that supports professional clinical practice
  • identify excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients
  • provide a mechanism for disseminating best practices in nursing services.

Studies show Magnet hospitals have higher percentages of satisfied registered nurses (RNs), lower RN turnover and vacancy, improved clinical outcomes, greater nurse autonomy, and improved patient satisfaction. Because Magnet designation is a multiyear commitment, it offers a long-term framework for quality-improvement efforts and a means for engaging and motivating staff at all levels.

Benefits of Magnet recognition

A growing and progressive body of independent research supports multiple, measurable benefits of Magnet recognition. This research will intensify as more hospitals achieve Magnet status and investigators continue to examine the impact. Here are some of the most significant findings to date.

Quality and safety

Magnet hospitals provide high-quality care, a safer environment, and better patient outcomes. Numerous studies, including one by the Gallup Organization in 2002, have found that nurses in Magnet organizations are more engaged in their work. Higher engagement correlates directly to better outcomes. Gallup estimates that Magnet hospitals, on average, experience 7.1% fewer safety-related incidents and accidents than the industry norm. The survey also found Magnet hospitals have significantly fewer RN workplace injuries and lower rates of blood and body fluid exposure.

Studies show that higher nurse-to-patient ratios and the professional practice environment in Magnet facilities result in fewer complications, lower mortality rates, and shorter stays. Needlestick-related, pressure-ulcer, and nosocomial infection rates are lower, too. More recent research shows significant safety gains in Magnet hospitals. Improved staff communication reduces preventable errors, while higher staffing levels and less absenteeism mean fewer diversions for nurses.

Service and people

Magnet hospitals improve the quality of the nursing experience. Benefits include increased RN satisfaction, which leads to improved retention rates and decreased turnover. Nurses in Magnet organizations are more satisfied with their jobs. They can rely on working with competent, supportive colleagues, both within nursing and across disciplines.

Extensive research by Ada Sue Hinshaw found the professional practice environment promotes greater autonomy and responsibility, participatory decision making, clinical collaboration, and increased opportunities for professional development and education. In a survey of 2,323 nurses in 68 hospitals, those in Magnet organizations reported significantly more positive perceptions of nursing competence in their work environment.

The Gallup survey noted above found that nurses in Magnet hospitals not only have significantly higher job satisfaction than those at non-Magnet facilities, but also a significantly higher desire to remain in their position. Higher job satisfaction means less burnout. The study estimates Magnet hospitals experience 1.7% less turnover than the industry average.

Engaged employees tend to be psychologically committed to the organization, loyal, more productive, and less likely to leave. The higher the engagement level, the better an organization performs. From a business standpoint, this “power of engagement” is one of the most significant benefits of Magnet recognition.

Research indicates that nursing schools have an increased desire to offer their students clinical experiences in Magnet facilities and are eager to collaborate on ways to improve program offerings. The result is a workforce composed of more BSN- and MSN-prepared nurses.

When nurses are happier and more engaged, patients are happier. Nurses in Magnet facilities spend more time at the bedside and provide more one-on-one care to patients. This high level of interaction often contributes to a faster recovery and higher patient satisfaction scores.

Financial benefits

All available data point to better economic performance and a higher measurable level of financial return for Magnet-designated hospitals. There are several ways Magnet facilities save money and boost their bottom line each year. Improved attraction and retention of nurses, for instance, yields significant savings in recruitment and RN employment agency costs. In addition, a positive working environment has been proven to lower the incidence of needlestick injuries in nurses.

Publicity associated with Magnet designation helps improve a hospital’s marketing position and return on investment. Magnet-recognized facilities routinely appear at the top of the nation’s most prestigious hospital and healthcare rankings, including U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of “America’s Best Hospitals” and Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For®.”

Magnet designation lends cachet to a healthcare organization. This raises awareness in the community and opens the door to increased philanthropic gifts, both for nursing and other areas of the hospital. (See Building the business case for Magnet recognition.)

A trip worth taking

Pursuing ANCC Magnet Recognition is a challenging,resource-intensive process that requires a fundamental culture shift throughout a healthcare
organization. And the work only gets harder once recognition is achieved. Magnet hospitals must sustain their standards of excellence and demonstrate outcomes of excellence in patient care and clinical practice.

Chief nursing officers who have pursued Magnet recognition agree that the Journey to Magnet Excellence is as important as the destination. It builds visionary, inspiring nurse leaders at all levels; develops, disseminates, and enculturates exceptional nursing practices and strategies; promotes research, quality improvement, evidence-based practice, and innovation; and establishes ways to achieve new heights of quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. As a result, Magnet organizations are in key positions to advance nursing science, learning, and discovery.

The Magnet journey shifts the focus from structure and process to outcomes in clinical quality, patient satisfaction, and the nursing environment—key indicators that paint a picture of the organization. The Magnet journey reframes the question for the future from “What do you do?” to “What difference have you made?”

The evidence is clear: By retaining a more engaged and effective nursing workforce, Magnet hospitals reap improvements in outcomes, productivity, service, and financial performance. With the national nursing shortage estimated to reach from 500,000 to 1 million in the next 15 years, investing to improve the nursing experience while saving money doesn’t require a tremendous amount of analysis.

The old adage “No margin, no mission” is passé. The new adage foretells the future: “No nurses, no margin, no mission.”

Selected references

Cimmiotti P, Quinlan P, Larson E, Pastor D, Stone P. The nursing process and perceived work environment of nurses. Nurs Res. 2005;54(6):384-390.

Clarke SP, Sloane DM, Aiken LH. Effects of hospital staffing and organizational climate on needlestick injuries to nurses. Am J Public Health. 2002;92(7):1115-1119.

Havens DS, Aiken LH. Shaping systems to promote desired outcomes: the Magnet hospital model. J Nurs Adm. 1999;29(2):14-20.

Scott JG, Sochalski J, Aiken L. Review of Magnet hospital research: findings and implications for professional nursing practice. J Nurs Adm. 1999;29(1):9-19.

Stone PW, Mooney-Kane K, Larson EL, et al. Nurse working conditions and patient safety outcomes. Med Care. 2007;45(6):571-578.

Karen Drenkard is director of the Magnet Recognition Program® at ANCC in Silver Spring, Maryland.

11 Comments. Leave new

  • I can’t believe the heavy push for BSN vs ADN nurses. I am a 2yr RN with 11 years exp in an OR as a tech/first assist who went back to get RN. I took the same licensure exam, I have the same privileges as a BSN….how are the BSN additional classes going to help me when a trauma comes into the OR? Or if a “routine” case starts circling the drain? Am I going to use my extra papers I wrote on H&Ps for a family or my class on cultural nursing to help stop the bleeding?? No. I use my experience and now I’m facing no being able to find a job cause I don’t have a BSN…it’s ridiculous.

    • patricia french
      September 11, 2020 2:32 pm

      Its not really ridiculous.
      a BSN will broaden your scope of practice, enhance your critical thinking skills, help you assess EBP to incorporate into your clinical setting.
      All other professions have one level of entry. Nursing needs to follow suit.
      All the papers you wrote on cultural nursing help you become a better more compassionate nurse.
      The evidence shows with a BSN prepared nurse, there is more patient satisfaction, improved patient outcomes and less errors in practice.
      I am sorry you do not see the value of a BSN education. I think you should reflect on this and hopefully enter a BSN completion program.
      Good Luck to you.

  • Mary Dickinson RN
    October 14, 2019 4:34 pm

    Magnet status seems to be taken as just a compliment for said organisation. As nurses have stated above, not many can SEE a difference in a Magnet status institutions. What I’m seeing and hearing is its putting a tremendous amount of pressure on nurses already overwhelmed with too many patients, the inability to find supplies needed etc. A nurse above also asked……….. Why would a graduate nurse in a magnet status setting be “better” than her – I dont think anyone is saying anyone is better than anyone else, the nurse asking the question has 9 yrs experience! I think I’d have to answer that like this: You as a nurse with 9yrs experience have just that – 9 yrs of experience! A graduate nurse coming into a magnet status institution WILL be more highly trained! Tho I do believe experience SHOULD count. Unfortunately….. It doesn’t. This could be debated for hours as you my fellow nurses know. Keeping saving lives and doing our best is about all we CAN do.

  • Magnet status means nothing. Hospitals such as Medical City Dallas Hospital operated by HCA have figured out how to manipulate numbers in order to achieve magnet status. I have witnessed first hand the care provided at this facility and the intimidation and workload placed on the nurses there is unbearable. A few people get promoted and others get overlooked even for an interview. In order to provide safe care for patients nurses must scavenge for supplies all over the hospital. Magnet status at this point should carry no weight in anyone’s decision when determining where to work or where to receive healthcare. It is all a numbers game.

  • who is the author of this article?

  • “Studies show that higher nurse-to-patient ratios and the professional practice environment in Magnet facilities result in fewer complications, lower mortality rates, and shorter stays.” Is this correct, or should it be lower nurse to patient ratios result in fewer complications, etc?

  • What happens when a hospital has achieved magnet status, then changes staffing ratios and begins to cut support staff during the middle of the credentialing cycle?

  • I have a firm belief that magnet status requirements add to the nursing shortage. Some nurses go to ADN programs for cost reasons. I have been a nurse for 9 years, I’ve never had a significant incident, an exposure, or a patient death while in my care. How is a new graduate with a BSN better than Me? Because she can become an administrator? What about people who just want to be bedside nurses? Something that this country desperately needs. We are being told we can’t even apply to certain hospitals. I have worked in 2 Magnet hospitals and I assure you that the nurses there are just as disappointed in how they are treated by management as in any other facility.

  • Ian Jarman, nursing student
    May 10, 2017 11:56 pm

    Therese Foy- A nurse-to-patient ratio is nurse:patient, ie. 1nurse:4patients, ie. 1:4. A higher nurse-to-patient ratio would be 2nurses:4patients= 2:4= 1:2. You can think of it in fraction form just as easily: 1nurse/4patients is higher (greater) than 1nurse/6patients and therefore more desirable from a nursing standpoint. Hope that helps.

  • I think this article is has a typo. It says, the Studies show that higher nurse-to-patient ratios and the professional practice environment in Magnet facilities result in fewer complications, lower mortality rates, and shorter stays.
    Do you mean lower nurse to patient ratio? Wouldn’t it be harder to manage a higher ratio? Doesn’t make sense. Please reread your article. Like a ratio of 4;1 would be more work than 2;1.

  • After reading the actual values from the ANA report on Magnet vs non-magnet. There was not significant variants of patient care. And the percentages of variants on most fingings (patient mortality, etc) were extremely nominal. So how does this prove that Magnet is best or that a bedside RN with 15 years of experience needs a advance degree to provide excellent care?


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