By Pete Gerardo
Since the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) unveiled its Magnet Recognition Program in 1990, the designation “Magnet Hospital” has become a coveted honor that attracts nurses and patients to the 608 healthcare organizations that earn this “gold standard” credential.
According to the ANCC, The Magnet Recognition Program” designates organizations worldwide where nursing leaders successfully align their nursing strategic goals to improve the organization’s patient outcomes.”
So, What is a Magnet Hospital?
Achieving Magnet recognition signifies that a hospital has a highly skilled and well-trained nursing staff that is committed to providing the highest standard of patient care.
It also means that the hospital has a strong nursing leadership structure, a positive work environment that supports nurses, and a culture of continuous improvement.
Although Magnet Hospital definitions vary, in general, an ANCC Magnet Hospital must demonstrate the following:
- A higher percentage of satisfied registered nurses
- Lower RN turnover and vacancies
- Greater nurse autonomy
- improved patient satisfaction
Should Nurses Work at Magnet Hospitals?
But for nurses who work at these hospitals – or wish to work there – is the designation really meaningful?
Or is the designation more of a status symbol than a marker of higher job satisfaction, better working environments, and superior patient outcomes?
Some critics say that Magnet Hospitals don’t necessarily offer better working conditions for nurses, and some accreditation criteria are difficult to actually document.
So where does the truth lie?
Should you put Magnet Hospitals at the top of your list of potential employers? And what does it take to land at one? Keep reading to find out.
How Do Hospitals Get Magnet Status?
As of January 2023, 9.96% of facilities in the US have Magnet Designation. That equates to about 6,093 hospitals.
The cost of obtaining Magnet designation for a healthcare facility can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the size and complexity of the facility, the level of preparation required, and the resources available to the organization.
Magnet accreditation is a resource-intensive process that takes an average of four years to complete and can range from $250,000 to over $2 million or more, depending on the facility.
In 2021, ANCC simplified the fee structure better to spread out the costs over the four-year period. Some of the Magnet costs for facilities include yearly fees for the following:
Though the list of criteria for receiving Magnet status is lengthy, here are a few key requirements:
Data Collection. The hospital must collect relevant data related to nursing, which must then be compared with that of other hospitals for benchmarking purposes. This data must also be used to identify problems areas and the means for improvement.
Feedback Process. The institution must develop a way for nurses to confidentially express concerns about the hospital’s practices in a way that encourages them to do so.
BSN Degrees: Nurse leaders, with a rank between manager and chief nursing officer (CNO), must have at least a bachelor’s or graduate degree in nursing.
Management: Nurse Managers must be registered nurses. They have around-the-clock accountability for the RNs at the hospital, handle performance reviews, recruiting, and other managerial duties related to the nursing department.
Chief Nursing Officers. The CNO must be a participant in the hospital’s governing body, as well as the body responsible for strategic planning. The CNO must have at least a master’s degree. If the degree is not in nursing, the officer must have either a bachelor’s degree or a doctorate in nursing.
Nurse Empowerment. All nurses should have a say in patient care and be involved in data collection, a collaborative approach that empowers nurses.
What Magnet Means for Nurses, Patients, and Hospitals
Over the past two decades, a number of studies have shown that most Magnet Hospitals do live up to the prestigious reputation associated with the designation.
A Gallup survey found that Magnet Hospital nurses were more engaged with their work, which correlates with better outcomes. 3
In addition, the study estimated that the average Magnet facility experiences 7.1% fewer safety-related incidents. These organizations also have significantly fewer RN workplace injuries and lower rates of blood and body fluid exposure.
The Gallup survey found that nurses in Magnet Hospitals have higher job satisfaction rates, including more desire to remain in their positions. (The study estimated that Magnet Hospitals have 1.7% less turnover than the industry average.)
Magnet status signifies that nurses work in an environment that values and supports their professional development, promotes a positive work culture, and empowers them to provide the highest quality care possible. That may also be why nurses in Magnet organizations report:
Higher levels of job satisfaction
Lower nurse dissatisfaction and nurse burnout
Greater opportunities for advancement and leadership development
There are also lower nurse turnover rates in Magnet-designated hospitals.
Magnet status indicates to patients that they can expect to receive exceptional care from a team of highly skilled and knowledgeable nurses who are committed to providing evidence-based, patient-centered care. Research has shown that patients in Magnet hospitals have better outcomes, such as:
Lower mortality rates
Lower fall rates
Lower hospital-acquired pressure ulcers
Higher patient satisfaction scores
Lower nosocomial infections
Lower central line-associated bloodstream infection rates
The benefits of Magnet status extend beyond patients and nurses to the hospitals themselves.
Research shows that although obtaining Magnet status is expensive, the costs are offset by a higher net inpatient income. Magnet status is “associated with an increase of 2.46% in the inpatient costs and 3.89% in net inpatient revenue for all hospitals, and 2.1% and 3.2% for urban hospitals.”
Magnet Hospitals are often ranked among the nation’s best – e.g., in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of “America’s Best Hospitals” and Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
“Having Magnet status heightened our visibility in the community and state for being a leader for health care,” said Cabiria Lizarraga, RN, manager of telemetry at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego. “When people see we are a Magnet facility, they know the employer is committed to nursing excellence.”
Magnet Hospital Criticisms
But Magnet Hospitals are not without their critics.
A study by the University of Maryland School of Nursing found that Magnet status had little to do with nurse working conditions, including work schedules, hours, and job demands.
The University of Maryland study also noted that, while nurses working in Magnet and non-Magnet Hospitals didn’t differ in most demographic characteristics, Magnet Hospitals employed far fewer nurses of color – just 9% compared with 16% in non-Magnet Hospitals.
And some critics say there’s no evidence that nurses at Magnet Hospitals are more empowered than their non-Magnet counterparts.
How to Get a Job at a Magnet Hospital
Before submitting applications to Magnet Hospitals, you should know that they tend to be very selective in their hiring. Put bluntly: most give preference to RNs with BSN degrees.
So the first and most obvious step to getting your foot in the door is earning a BSN.
You should also show that you’re serious about professional development. Magnet hospitals are looking to advance the nursing profession, so they want nurses who strive for excellence in their field.
If you have any special awards or have taken leadership roles (like sitting on committees or suggesting new procedures), make sure that’s clear on your resume or in your interview.
It’s also smart to develop contacts at Magnet Hospitals by networking with HR personnel in the hospitals you’ve targeted, as well as the current nurses and managers.
Peter Gerardo is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times and numerous trade magazines.