Why magnet status is a mecca…

magnet-statusWhen I was recently interviewing for a new job, my last consideration as a bedside nurse was whether or not a hospital was “Magnet” status.
Yet all of the hospitals I spoke to made sure to inform me of their magnet aspirations with consequent apologies for not “making it, yet.” I was even turned down by one hospital, as they needed a certain percentage of BSN nurses in order to finally get Magnet. (Their loss, in my opinion, as I will have my BSN next year and more importantly, am a highly qualified nurse.)

I’m sure these hospitals believe the hype that Magnet draws in more, better-qualified nurses—but during interviews, I was more interested in staffing ratios, safety, salary, benefits, teamwork, resources on the floor, and patient demographics. Yet, because most hospitals place so much emphasis on their magnet status or lack there-of, I have been forced to consider if Magnet is of any importance to me as a bedside nurse.

As a credential, Magnet looks good on my resume, although none of the hospitals I have worked for have managed to achieve this accolade. Judged on 14 characteristics by the ANCC, hospitals pay a lot of money to apply for Magnet, they put their nurses through all kinds of hoops to shape their workforce into something that looks good on paper, and then it’s a waiting game to see if Magnet is achieved. This can take years and tons of money—all the while nurses continue to nurse, work on their educations, and endure magnet-style “harassment” from management. And yes, the nurses I have worked with were so tired of hearing about Magnet characteristics and pending status, they classified Magnet-talk as akin to abuse.

In my own experience, the hospitals seeking magnet status required such things from their nurses as extensive written portfolios and more intense annual review processes, a push towards achieving more nursing certifications, required magnet-meetings outside of required hospital meetings, and pushes for nurses to obtain even more education in order to further beef up their resumes. This all equaled additional time for nurses to be away from their families and outside commitments—and yes, nurses were even away from the bedside more in order to meet these requirements! I dropped to part time status to work on my BSN under the notion that I had to have it in order to stay marketable in Magnet-land as a nurse—so my hospital no longer paid for my classes and I lost work pay.

The argument is that all these added endeavors benefit nurses and nursing care—but many nurses see these additional “requirements” as marketing ploys for the hospital. Maybe nurses are have become more cynical in their thinking—but there really is the belief out there that “Magnet = money” and ultimately the hospitals put dollars out for Magnet in order to make more dollars.

While Magnet Status beacons to most American hospitals (that can afford it), for this new nurse it is one more nuance to investigate and understand within the suffering American healthcare system. In other words, the jury is still out. I don’t know if, in the long run, Magnet will provide answers to the bedside nurse’s issues. Yet, I have learned that hospitals hope this program will draw in more patients, more educated nurses, better doctors and ultimately more money.

Magnet Status seems to be every hospital’s Mecca, while the bedside nurse continues to navigate his way through all the red tape in order to provide the best possible care with the resources and knowledge at hand.

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