What Is a Magnet Hospital? What Nurse Candidates Should Know About Working There

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Nurse practitioner sits at her desk while working at a Magnet hospital.

Beginning in 1983, the American Academy of Nursing’s Task Force on Nursing Practice in Hospitals studied the characteristics that distinguish the hospitals most adept at attracting and retaining skilled nurses from other hospitals. The task force identified 14 “Forces of Magnetism” that now serve as the basis for the Magnet Nursing Services Recognition Program sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The growing interest in the ANCC’s Magnet hospital program has left many nurses wondering, “What is a Magnet hospital?”, and trying to decide whether they should work at one.

The answers to those questions begin with the desire to provide the kind of quality patient care and nurturing work environments that attract and retain talented nursing staff. Nurses looking for opportunities to reach the peak of their profession at a Magnet hospital can benefit from earning a degree such as Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing, which provides the skills and expertise required to qualify for many nurse practitioner positions at Magnet hospitals.

What Is a Magnet Hospital?

The ANCC’s Magnet model helps institutions prepare to apply for Magnet certification. To be designated a Magnet hospital, institutions must meet the ANCC’s eligibility requirements represented in five model components (listed here along with the 14 forces associated with them):

  • Transformational Leadership: Quality of nursing leadership and management style
  • Structural Empowerment: Organizational structure, personnel policies and programs, community and the health care organization, image of nursing, and professional development
  • Exemplary Professional Practice: Professional models of care, consultation and resources, autonomy, nurses as teachers, and interdisciplinary relationships
  • New Knowledge, Innovation, and Improvement: Quality improvement
  • Empirical Quality Results: Quality of care

The goal of the ANCC’s Magnet Recognition Program is to create “a roadmap to advance nursing excellence, with contented staff at its core.” Magnet hospitals are rewarded for creating a “collaborative culture” that places nurses at the center of their patients’ journey through the health care system.

Statistics on Magnet Hospitals

In the 30 years since the inception of the ANCC’s Magnet program in 1990, the number of hospitals in the U.S. that have earned the Magnet designation has grown from a single hospital in 1994 to 387 institutions in 2011. As of 2017, 9% of the 5,252 hospitals in the country — 473 hospitals — were designated as Magnet hospitals, and in 2019 that number grew to 505.

An ANCC nursing management salary survey found 51.4% of RN decision-makers at Magnet hospitals hold a graduate degree, 50.4% have received a certification from a national nursing organization and 28.1% are advanced practice nurses. Researchers examining mortality rates determined that Magnet hospitals had rates that were 14% lower than those of non-Magnet hospitals after clinical factors were considered.

Why Is a Magnet Designation Important to Have?

According to Contemporary Nurse, a hospital with Magnet recognition tends to produce a nursing environment and organizational structure that positively impacts nursing culture. As such, nurse turnover rates are reduced and patient outcomes are better.

A separate study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analyzed data collected by various surveys of Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals to determine whether Magnet hospitals benefited financially after receiving the designation. The 141 Magnet hospitals in the analysis increased their annual revenue by an average of $1,229,770 to $1,263,926 annually. While Magnet status increased cost per patient by 2.46% compared to non-Magnet hospitals, net patient revenue at Magnet hospitals increased 3.89% more than at non-Magnet counterparts.

Why Don’t More Hospitals Have a Magnet Designation?

Once a nursing professional knows what a Magnet hospital is and how the Magnet designation benefits patients and staff alike, it becomes clear why positions at those institutions are in great demand. However, meeting the requirements for Magnet status takes more time, effort, and expense than many hospitals can manage.

What Prevents Hospitals from Becoming a Magnet Hospital?

Perhaps the greatest obstacle for hospitals attempting to earn the ANCC’s Magnet designation is the application process itself. Research conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the average amount of time required for a hospital to earn Magnet status was four and a quarter years, and the average cost per year is $500,000, bringing the total cost of a Magnet application to over $2 million.

Along with the application, hospitals submit documents showing they meet the qualitative and quantitative measures required for patient care and outcomes. Once the ANCC determines that the documents demonstrate the necessary level of excellence, it plans an on-site visit to confirm the information in the application, after which the commission on Magnet hospitals assesses the full appraisal report and votes on whether to approve the application.

What Does a Hospital Need to Become a Magnet Hospital?

To be named a Magnet hospital, a health care entity must meet the ANCC’s organizational and educational requirements:

  • The organization must have one or more “nursing settings” with a single governing authority.
  • There must be an individual serving as chief nursing officer (CNO) who is responsible for ensuring the hospital meets all standards in its nursing practice areas.
  • The CNO must participate in decision-making and strategic planning at the highest level.
  • The CNO must have at least a master’s degree, and if the master’s degree is not in nursing, then the CNO must have a bachelor’s or doctorate degree in nursing.
  • Nurse managers must be RNs holding a bachelor’s or graduate degree in nursing.
  • Nurse leaders must have a bachelor’s or graduate degree in nursing.

Other Magnet hospital standards apply to nurse administrators, feedback procedures for nurses, data collection, and regulatory compliance. A separate list of requirements applies to institutions that wish to apply as a system.

Why Nurses Should Consider Working at a Magnet Hospital

The three goals of the Magnet program mirror the aspirations of nursing professionals: support professional growth, provide patients with the highest quality of care, and foster best practices in the nursing profession. These three qualities create a work environment that is attractive to nurses.

Furthermore, when nurses experience success in their work by saving lives, they can enjoy their jobs more. Research reported by Health Affairs finds that nurses at Magnet hospitals can concentrate on fewer patients, enabling them to provide the best care possible. This leads to a 7.7% decrease in deaths within the first 30 days of treatment and an 8.6% decrease in the number of postoperative deaths.

What Skills and Degrees Must a Nurse Have to Secure a Job at a Magnet Hospital?

One way candidates can improve their chances of landing a nursing job at a Magnet hospital is by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree such as Regis College’s online MSN degree. Students choose from one of five nurse practitioner areas: Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner.

The online MSN program is grounded in current medical practices and designed to develop students’ critical thinking and leadership skills. After completing the degree program, graduates are prepared to take certification exams, including those given by the ANCC, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Benefits of Working at a Magnet Hospital for Nurse Practitioners

As part of their continuing efforts to excel, Magnet hospitals are often on the forefront of advances in the delivery of health care services and the promotion of healthy living choices. Magnet hospitals offer diverse pathways to help nurse practitioners advance to leadership positions in nursing and health care administration.

For example, the organizational changes implemented to meet Magnet program requirements not only improve patient outcomes, the changes also empower nurse practitioners and other nursing staff, giving them more responsibility and recognition for their work. Moreover, research reported by Medical Care determined that a hospital’s finances improved when they reach Magnet status, as it reduces the costs associated with a 16% decrease in turnover rates. All of these factors are key to implementing and maintaining the requirements of the Magnet program.

Helping Nurses Reach Their Professional Goals

The Magnet hospital program serves as a blueprint for improving patient outcomes. Nurses seeking opportunities to grow in their profession will find that the needs of Magnet hospitals include many different specialties.

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing program prepares students to qualify for a nurse practitioner position in one of five specializations. Find out more about the benefits of the online MSN degree program’s flexible learning environment and the skills emphasized in its curriculum.

Recommended Readings
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Nurse Practitioner: What’s the Difference?
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: The Road to Advanced Nursing Practice
Future of Nursing: Trends in a Demanding Industry

American Nurse Today, “Achieving Magnet Designation: From Preparation to Pride”
American Nurses Credentialing Center, ANCC Magnet Recognition Program
American Nurses Credentialing Center, Facts About the Magnet Recognition Program
American Nurses Credentialing Center, Forces of Magnetism
American Nurses Credentialing Center, History of the Magnet Program
Campaign for Action, Number of Hospitals in the United States with Magnet Status
Cleveland Clinic, “What It Takes to Earn Magnet Recognition”
Contemporary Nurse, “Impact of Magnet Hospital Designation on Nursing Culture: An Integrative Review”
Health Affairs, “Hospitals in ‘Magnet’ Program Show Better Patient Outcomes on Mortality Measures Compared to Non-‘Magnet’ Hospitals”
HealthLeaders, “Magnet Designation Is Meaningful, but Not Magical”
Johns Hopkins Nursing, “The Meaning of Magnet”
Medical Care, “Changes in Patient and Nurse Outcomes Associated With Magnet Hospital Recognition”
MedPage Today, “Magnet Status: Superior Care or Marketing Gimmick?”
Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Becoming a Magnet Hospital Can Increase Revenue, Offset Costs of Achieving Magnet Status”