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Few professions enjoy high demand quite like nursing. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests a job growth outlook of 12 percent which is far higher than the national average across all professions. This gives many registered nurses the enviable opportunity to be highly selective about where and under what circumstances they work.

The downside? With so many jobs available, it can be difficult to know which ones warrant consideration. Aspiring RNs emphasize salary, of course, but job environment also matters—and determining which facilities are nurse-friendly can be difficult.

Many factors influence how job seekers perceive the facility environment, but magnet status is one of the most noteworthy for RNs. Several, however, struggle to understand: What is a Magnet hospital? And why is it important? Others wonder whether any potential downside might accompany the effort to gain this credential. We dive into these questions and other important considerations below.

What Is Magnet Status for Hospitals?

A key designation conferred by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), magnet status highlights the ability of medical facilities to meet a variety of stringent requirements related to job satisfaction and RN turnover. Many health care professionals believe that magnet hospitals provide a better work environment for nurses—and that this, in turn, leads to far better patient outcomes.

The magnet program as we know it was prompted by results from a landmark study conducted by the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Task Force on Nursing Practice in Hospitals. This research identified several key factors needed to attract and retain the industry’s best and brightest nurses. Additionally, the study revealed that a mere 41 of 163 institutions actually possessed the qualities deemed necessary for keeping high-performing nurses around. These facilities were henceforth referred to as magnet hospitals.

In 1990, the American Nursing Association (ANA) Board of Directors continued to build on the AAN Task Force’s results by approving a proposal involving a Magnet Hospital Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing Services. The program’s name changed (as have magnet hospital requirements), but the general purpose remains the same: providing, as advocates at the ANCC claim, a “roadmap to nursing excellence.”

Research highlighted by ANCC suggests that magnet hospitals provide a myriad of benefits, including everything from lower vacancy rates to higher earnings for RNs and nurse leaders. Advocates believe that, while the initial cost of gaining this status can seem prohibitive, magnet hospitals ultimately see increased revenue and, more importantly, better patient outcomes.

Magnet Hospital Requirements

Gaining status as a magnet hospital is far from easy. The ANCC’s Magnet Recognition Program includes a long list of requirements that hospitals must meet before gaining elevated status. These are categorized based on whether applications are submitted for individual organizations or for larger hospital systems. Key eligibility standards include:

  • All nurse managers or lead nurses must hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Even a single nurse manager on staff without such credentials could prevent a hospital from achieving magnet status.
  • Magnet hospitals should employ Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) who are responsible for overseeing each organization’s standards and practices.
  • CNOs must participate in decision-making at the organization’s highest levels.
  • Every CNO must hold, at minimum, a master’s degree. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve nursing—but CNOs should, at the very least, have nursing-oriented baccalaureate or doctoral degrees.
  • All nurses must be allowed—and encouraged—to express confidential concerns about their work environment without fear of retribution. Organizations cannot gain magnet status if any policies or procedures exist that discourage nurses from making their thoughts known.
  • Hospitals applying for magnet status must maintain full compliance with federal regulations administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Applicants are required to collect indicators deemed nurse-sensitive. This information should be benchmarked against a broad database in the interest of promoting quality improvement initiatives.
  • Organizations should submit information on patient and nurse satisfaction to a database that compares their results to those of similar facilities at the national level.
  • Systems applying for magnet status must hold a unifying mission, vision, and set of values that apply to all of its facilities.
  • System-wide nursing participation should be evident for community-sponsored events.
  • A single set of performance appraisals must be applied across all facilities within systems seeking magnet status.

This list might seem extensive, but it represents just a few of the many requirements highlighted by the ANCC. Detailed application manuals and self-assessment materials include a vast array of other necessities. These involve everything from site visits conducted by appraisers to maintaining patient and family education committees for hospital systems. It’s no wonder, then, that magnet status takes so long to acquire.

Magnet status should be one of several factors considered when seeking work in the health care industry. While many of the nation’s most impressive facilities are magnet hospitals, they are also recognized for nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. When in doubt, look at a variety of indicators to get a better sense of which facilities provide the best opportunities.

Are you interested in pursuing a position with a healthcare system that has attained magnet status? Take the first step by earning your undergraduate degree with an RN to BSN degree program from an accredited institution such as Post University. We’re here to help.

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes from Post University programs please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.