Nurses Reap Career-Affirming Rewards of Hospital Credentialing
Nurses report heightened professional support and improved morale when working for Magnet-designated hospitals.
A select number of hospitals in the United States – roughly 10% — achieve Magnet® status, a coveted distinction awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). A sign of nursing excellence, the credential requires that hospitals satisfy a rigorous set of criteria designed to measure the strength and quality of their nursing program.
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Organizations that earn the coveted designation demonstrate their superiority by establishing a culture of safety and clinical quality, both of which translate to better patient outcomes and nurse morale, explains Katelynn Milliken, MBA, MSN-Ed, RN, CPHON, Magnet Program Manager, Nursing Quality and Practice at Cleveland Clinic Akron General.
“To achieve Magnet status, an organization is required to meet important benchmarks in nursing innovation, practice and excellence – all of which have been shown to significantly improve outcomes for patients and caregivers alike,” she says. “The designation also confirms that hospital leadership recognizes and respects the substantial contributions made by its nursing staff, which is a critical component of caregiver well-being and career longevity.”
Applying for Magnet status takes months of hard work in which nursing teams are required to provide evidence of excellence in clinical quality and nurse and patient satisfaction. The process begins with the submission of an electronic application that demonstrates qualitative and quantitative evidence regarding patient care and outcomes. If scores from the written documentation fall within a range of excellence, ANCC representatives schedule an on-site visit to thoroughly assess the hospital. After this meticulous review, the Commission on Magnet Recognition analyzes the completed appraisal report and votes to determine whether Magnet recognition will be granted.
Documentation for the process is broken down into four categories: transformational leadership; structural empowerment; exemplary professional practice; and new knowledge, innovation and improvements. Within those categories, the applying team must include a description of the organization, the settings in which registered nurses practice, actions taken by nurses to support patient care, research projects, and the CNO’s job description and achievements.
“When hospitals excel in those four key areas, the natural result is good outcomes,” says Milliken. “The application process is exhaustive and challenging, but it gives our nursing teams the opportunity to work together toward a central goal. Exemplary professional practice focuses on collaboration, patient-centered care, safety and best practices. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our efforts to achieve excellence in nursing quality and patient safety.”
Aside from improved nurse satisfaction and patient safety, Magnet hospitals provide a host of other benefits, all of which can help instill confidence in prospective patients and future staff, says Milliken. They include:
The ability to attract and retain talent: Magnet organizations are associated with higher nurse retention and lower turnover rates than their non-Magnet counterparts. “Credentialed hospitals benefit from decreased nurse vacancies and reduced attrition,” she says. “The longer our nurses stay, the greater the impact they can have on our health system and community, so we’re laser-focused on practices that encourage staff retention.”
A collaborative, empowering culture: The Magnet model outlines a structured approach to engaging nurses in decision-making, which helps them feel validated and engaged. From a strong shared governance model to daily interdisciplinary huddles, Cleveland Clinic’s Nursing Institute has a variety of mechanisms in place to ensure that nurses are an integral part of all health system operations, says Milliken.
Opportunities for career expansion and advancement: Cleveland Clinic closely follows a model created by the ANCC to support the professional development of nurses at every level, she explains. In addition to its robust nursing-led research program, the organization emphasizes caregiver growth by fostering innovation and interdisciplinary teamwork — critical benchmarks for achieving Magnet status.
Milliken adds that the supportive work environment found in ANCC-accredited organizations may also help reduce hospital operating costs and elicit a warmer reception from the community.
To achieve a high level of care, nurses must be prepared to make continual improvements to their practice. Despite every Magnet hospital’s pressure to excel, however, the ANCC is less interested in perfection than in a nursing team’s ability to identify problems and take corrective action, says Milliken.
“Magnet organizations are expected to make continuous and ongoing efforts to achieve measurable improvements in practice,” she explains. “Indicators of quality, such as efficiency, accountability and outcomes, help the ANCC evaluate how well a hospital is improving healthcare delivery. It’s not about performing flawlessly; it’s about the ability of our nursing teams to recognize issues when they arise and respond with smart, effective solutions.”
Milliken, who has also worked for non ANCC-accredited hospitals, says that the Magnet designation is a reliable indicator of a healthy workplace.
“I’m incredibly proud to work for a Magnet facility because I believe in the standards this achievement represents,” she concludes. “Not only am I working for an organization that nurtures the talents of its nurses, but I’m also working with nurses who share a commitment to providing impeccable patient care.”