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Is Magnet Certification Worth It for Nurses?
by Margarette Burnette Minority Nurse Writer
Do you work at one of the more than 400 Magnet-recognized hospitals around the world? It has been said that minority nurses who work at these recognized facilities have the benefit of flourishing in a positive environment with employers who value their skills and career goals.
However, the results of Minority Nurse’s 2014 best companies survey suggest that nurses value other qualities far more than Magnet status when it comes to selecting an ideal employer. The survey, which was conducted late last year, asked nurses how important certain qualities (such as salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours) were to them when considering an employer. The results revealed that Magnet status ranked near the bottom of the list, only ranking ahead of one category: workplace size.
For some health professionals, the question of whether or not Magnet status is important can’t be fully answered until they know more about the designation, and that includes those nurses who work at Magnet-designated facilities, says Kristin Baird, RN, a hospital consultant.
“In some programs, people talk about ‘Magnet’ but people don’t understand it,” she says. In turn, they may be less likely to advocate for it or share its benefits with their colleagues. If a facility has already achieved the designation by the time a nurse is hired, then the nurse who didn’t go through the certification process may have a harder time understanding its importance and impact, especially when speaking with fellow nurses, Baird argues.
“If it’s just part of who [their hospital] is and people stop talking about it, and they don’t embrace what it means, they’re not going to be promoting it,” she says.
However, many nurses who work at Magnet hospitals and who do understand the program believe that it is a very important ideal. “Having Magnet status heightened our visibility in the community and state for being a leader for health care,” says Cabiria Lizarraga, RN, manager of telemetry at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, California. Sharp Grossmont Hospital first received Magnet status in 2007.
Other hospitals likely receive positive coverage in their communities as well, Lizarraga adds. In fact, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), 15 of the 18 medical centers on the 2013 US News Best Hospitals in America Honor Roll and all 10 of the US News Best Children’s Hospital Honor Roll for the same year are recognized by the ANCC as Magnet-recognized organizations.
“It’s very important to have because it shows we are committed. When people see we are a Magnet facility, they know the employer is committed to nursing excellence,” says Lizarraga.
Patients who are seeking hospitals may also look for the Magnet designation as an objective benchmark to help them choose where they’ll do business, says Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN, a nurse anesthetist in Pensacola, Florida. Angelis has worked at Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals throughout his career.
Understanding the Magnet Designation
According to the ANCC, which is the Magnet credentialing organization, there are three goals for the program:
• Promote quality in a setting that supports professional practice;
• Identify excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients/residents; and
• Disseminate best practices in nursing services.
The process to achieve Magnet status is identified by the ANCC as the “Journey to Magnet Excellence.” Facilities have to show that they have strong nurse leaders who are able to guide teams, develop professionally, take the lead in research efforts, and can show good empirical outcomes and the impact of those results. The certification lasts for four years, after which time the facility can re-apply.
Angelis, who has served on several committees on hospitals seeking Magnet status, says it is an expensive and time-consuming process, but it’s a good way for hospitals to prove that they value nurses. “A Magnet designation can be a hint that a hospital has a culture that respects the contributions its nurses make,” he explains.
“Nurses want to work for an organization that really strives to empower them, one that has opportunities in place for them to do research or advance their degrees,” says Lizarraga. Facilities that have Magnet status can attract some of the best nurses available, she adds. “It is used as a recruiting tool because nurses would know about Magnet nursing excellence.”
Angelis says that if a hospital has low morale among nurses, achieving Magnet status can provide positive motivation. “It’s an opportunity for the hospital to change their culture,” he says. “Facilities that empower their nurses can improve morale, and that can help with job recruiting and retention.”
Some Nurses Left Behind?
Having an environment that encourages professional development among nurses is a positive, but there is a concern among some professionals, particularly those who don’t have advanced degrees, about where they fit in under a Magnet facility, explains Lizarraga.
Will the jobs be there for LPNs and for associate degree and diploma nurses? “There is some concern about whether or not they’d be able to practice in an acute care hospital or Magnet facility,” says Lizarraga. It may be understandable why many Minority Nurse survey respondents viewed Magnet status as only “somewhat important.”
But that issue is bigger than Magnet certification, Lizarraga argues. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report recommending that the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80% by 2020. This recommendation affects all nurses, not just those at Magnet hospitals, she adds.
However, many nurses who have more advanced degrees obviously have an advantage, states Baird. “It’s not to say there’s not a place for LPNs, but if you’re a Magnet hospital you’re looking at advancing nursing as a profession and making sure you’re finding nurses who want to be at the peak of the profession,” she explains.
Find the Best Match
So what’s a nurse to do? According to Baird, nurses of all education levels should first identify their career goals and factors that are personally important, such as career growth potential, flexibility options, and income. Then, identify an employer that seems to offer the best environment.
“I’m a big advocate of hiring for fit and choosing a job for fit,” says Baird. “Identify your core values, then find an organization that’s in alignment with those values.”
If you plan to obtain an advanced degree or would like the opportunity to go into research or academia, working at a Magnet facility may be able to provide you with more opportunities than a non-Magnet facility, she says.
However, if a potential employer is not a Magnet facility, but has other benefits that may be important to you—such as more flexible scheduling or a generous tuition reimbursement program—that could be the way to go, says Baird. Whether nurses work at Magnet hospitals or not, identifying employers aligned with their values puts them in the best position possible to benefit their patients and their careers.
Margarette Burnette is a freelance writer based in Georgia.