Magnet® Designation: Why it Matters and What You Need to Know

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post is an excerpt from an article by Gen Guanci, MEd, RN-BC, CCRN,Creative Healthcare Management, in the current issue of PX Alert, HealthStream's quarterly e-newsletter devoted to the wide range of challenges, situations, and issues that have an impact on the patient experience. 

The beauty of using the pursuit of Magnet® designation as the framework for your cultural transformation is that it sets out clear parameters for all aspects of the transformation. The very pursuit of Magnet® designation will almost certainly bring your organization a myriad of improvements in nursing excellence, nurse satisfaction, and nurse retention.

Genesis of the Magnet Recognition Program®

Despite a serious nursing shortage in the 1980s, it came to light that several hospitals throughout the United States were still attracting and retaining nurses. With sponsorship from the American Nurses Association, a team of nurse researchers set out to determine what was occurring at those organizations that made each of them a “magnet” for nurses. Their findings pointed to excellence in administration and professional practice, as well as a consistent and visible commitment to professional development (McClure & Hinshaw, 2002).

Several years later, Marlene Kramer and her colleagues identified more of the conditions that were present in organizations that were successful in attracting and retaining nurses. This is a compiled a list of the “essentials of Magnetism”:

  • Working with nurses who are clinically competent
  • Good RN/MD relationships (collaborative/collegial)
  • Nurse autonomy and accountability
  • Control of nursing practice and the practice environment
  • Supportive nurse manager/supervisor
  • Support for education
  • Adequate nurse staffing
  • Emphasis on concern for patient (Kramer, 2003)

In short order, a few other commonalities were discovered. Hospitals that were able to attract and retain nurses showed the following outcomes:

  • Lower morbidity and mortality rates
  • Higher patient and nurse satisfaction
  • Less nurse burnout
  • Higher levels of professional nursing practice

Nurse leaders and researchers were closer than ever to defining what must be present in an organization in order for nurses to thrive.

In 1993, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) established the Magnet Nursing Services Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing to formally recognize organizations that demonstrated excellence in nursing practice. Since that time, more than 401 hospitals in the United States and abroad have gone on to receive or maintain Magnet® status. This number, however, continues to comprise less than 7 percent of the hospitals in the United States.

In 2002, the ANCC, “realizing it requires an initiative on the part of the whole organization and a change in its culture, chose another name—the Magnet Recognition Program®. This change confirmed what nurses already knew and valued… it takes the whole healthcare team to ensure good patient outcomes” (Guanci, 2005). Further program revisions were made in 2005 so that the designation review process focused on the 14 Forces of Magnetism. Then in 2008, ANCC unveiled the New Magnet Model, which consists of five components:

  • Transformational Leadership
  • Structural Empowerment
  • Exemplary Professional Practice
  • New Knowledge/Innovations and Improvements
  • Empirical Outcomes

August 2013 saw the release of the 2014 Magnet Application Manual, which now offers specific instructions of the examples to submit, as well as an increased emphasis on concrete evidence. Fifty percent of the document submission must address the sustainable outcomes organizations have achieved.

What those who have designed the Magnet® designation program have given us is a set of tangible outcomes to which we can aspire. Taken together, the Magnet® components and their associated requirements help us to understand our destination, but they do far less to help us understand the route we need to take to get there. For this, an experienced guide is necessary. More than 30 percent of organizations fail on their first attempt at Magnet® designation. While it is quite likely that their organizations have benefited in some intangible ways from the process itself, pursuing Magnet® is costly, and failing to achieve designation means the measurable ROI on that investment is nonexistent.

Ready, Set…Pause

There’s no doubt about it: the pursuit of Magnet® designation has a lot more in common with a marathon than it does with a sprint.

The full article also describes:

  • 7 essential things to do before embarking on your Magnet® journey
  • 10 Lessons Learned from Multiple Magnet® Journeys
  • The value of having experienced Magnet® partners