Magnet nursing award is more than a gold star
Magnet nursing award is more than a gold star
Winning hospitals find application data useful
(Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series that looks at the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program. Last month, we ran an overview of the program and what 20 hospitals and one long-term care facility around the country have to do to gain the recognition. This month, Healthcare Benchmarks looks at two of the hospitals that have made the mark and what they got out of the process and the award.)
If your organization wants to apply for the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program, be forewarned: It is a daunting application that asks for documentation proving your facility meets 14 different criteria, from having visible nursing leadership and nurse involvement in planning and decision making to ensuring you have enough staff with the right credentials and good salaries and benefits.
But the rewards are considerable, says Donna Poduska, RN, MS, director of resource services at Poutre Valley Health Systems in Fort Collins, CO. "It can really highlight how much you do during your daily operations," she says. "You see what they want as proof of meeting a standard, and then you realize, Wow! I already do this!’"
Verifying that your facility has five-star nursing is a real morale booster, too, Poduska adds. And there is growing proof that morale will be important as an impending nursing shortage looms. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the aging of the RN population.1
According to the study, over the next two decades, the largest number of nurses will be between 50 and 69 years old. The average age over the next decade will be 45.4 years, and the RN work force is unlikely to increase enough to meet growing health care needs.
"I always felt I could say we were great with our nurses, and our nursing," says Poduska, "but having [validation] come from an outside source adds weight. And as nurses grow picky about where they work, that is important. They know that here they will have adequate staffing, their input will be appreciated, and they will work in a good environment." Daily, she gets calls and inquiries from nurses around the country who say they heard of the magnet status and want to interview for a position.
Joanne Hambleton, RN, MSN, director of nursing and patient services at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, says she gets lots of calls and e-mails. But she also gets inquiries from her peers, who want to know how to ace the application procedure for magnet status.
Fox Chase was the first facility to achieve magnet status in Pennsylvania, and Hambleton says the pressure is increasing for facilities as they begin to compete for fewer and fewer nurses.
Nursing shortage spurs efforts
Hambleton says going through the application process verified to the center’s medical and other staff that the things they did to care for patients were important. "It proved that our practice of nursing is research-based, that we do allow our nurses to participate in the decision-making process," Hambleton explains. "These are things that we suspect are good for patients, but it is stuff that no regulatory body looks at."
It is the first time anyone has paid such close attention to nursing, she continues. "It gave us our first chance to look at what we did, how long we did it, and prove to ourselves and outside bodies that there is value in it."
Although the impending nursing shortage may be reason enough to go through the arduous application process, Hambleton says what really spurred the facility to take on the burden was state pride. "There was an editorial in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1997 about how all these hospitals in New Jersey achieved magnet status, but none in Pennsylvania had," she says. The next year, applying for magnet status became an administrative goal. "We didn’t really know what we were getting into, though. When we saw the application, we were shocked."
There are other valuable lessons that come from taking part in programs like the Magnet Program. Hambleton points out that she became aware that Fox Chase wasn’t using data in its process-improvement programs. "We were basing most of our quality efforts on identifying a problem and solving it, not looking at data to point us to areas of interest," she says. "While we were doing many valuable things as part of process improvement, we weren’t focusing on areas where we could use data to demonstrate our strengths and weaknesses."
Now they are putting data to use. For instance, using University of Virginia data on national needlestick rates, Fox Chase was able to demonstrate that what it viewed as an acceptable injury rate of one or two incidents per month was much higher than the national norm. "Day to day, the importance of data may get lost in what we are doing, but this example really speaks to our staff. Now, everyone is focused on reducing injury rates."
Both Poduska and Hambleton say the whole process of applying for magnet recognition will be easier the second time around.
"I’m sure we will change the way we collect and collate data as a result," says Hambleton. "We will begin files now for the information we will need. We’ll make four copies of some of the exhibit material that we’ll need, like education programs and orientation material. We won’t wait until application time to go find it and copy it."
Next time, Hambleton says she also will break down the process into smaller pieces and delegate those pieces to more people. "We had a small planning group take on the whole thing, and it was a bigger burden than it had to be."
Poduska recommends tackling the standards one at a time. "You’ll look at it and think you’ll never get it done. It does take a long time, but you can do it. And it is definitely worth the effort."
[For more information, contact: Donna Poduska, RN, MS, Director of Resource Services, Poutre Valley Health Systems, Fort Collins, CO. Telephone: (970) 495-8202. Joanne Hambleton, RN, MSN, Director of Nursing and Patient Services, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia. Telephone: (888) 369-2427.]
1. Buerhaus PI, Staiger DO, Auerbach DI. Implications of an aging registered nurse workforce. JAMA 2000; 283:2,948-2,954.
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