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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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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3 Responses to Why magnet status is a mecca…

  1. The thing is, these “magnet” things ought to be shown to actually *be* better, and not just proof of further education. There are a lot of “educated fools” around — professional students may be able to ace any test, but do they actually *perform* better than others when the rubber meets the road?

    It’s like teaching — (my husband is a teacher, so I feel free to use this example) — there’s a big to-do over making sure teachers are “highly qualified,” including criteria like bachelor’s and master’s degrees or higher, continuing education, certain classes, etc., but there is no actual proof that teachers who have all the bells and whistles are better teachers for it. Especially when compared to home-schooling parents. When it comes to outcomes, most of the time home-schooled kids kick public-school kids’ butts! This despite (or is it perhaps because of?) all the education and training that teachers have, compared to the desire to educate that mothers have. As long as there is proof that all this extra stuff actually translates into better care for patients, that’s great — let’s do this extra stuff. But if (as you suggested in your post) it takes time away from patient care in order to push widgets or paperwork, then give me the old-fashioned nurse any day of the week! :-)

  2. a big point of the Magnet designation is that nursing gets a big place at the table in hospital decisions. although nurses typically have had a role in decision making, they have really taken the back seat to mds. In a magnet facility, nurses play a far more prominent role in making a whole world of decisions. would love to hear from nurses who have worked in both environments – magnet & non-magnet.

  3. Granny RN

    I worked in a large urban hospital which ‘attained’ Magnet status after paying the $48,000 fee (in the late 1990s) and doing mountains of paperwork in order to ‘satisfy’ the AANC ‘standards’ for this nonsense. They made certain that only those nurses who fit the ‘profile’ and who would ‘walk the Company line’ were on duty when the inspectors came. And after they got what they paid for they made a big PR show of plastering the stickers on Every Single Door, handing out pins to all of the nurses and using it to the full extent of the Media. My pin broke within about a year, which I considered to be an ironic joke for the nurses who knew ‘how it was done’.
    So I consider it just another marketing ploy designed to make the public ‘feel better’ about one hospital vs. another. It did not change a damned thing about the way in which management REALLY treated its best nurses. I put NO stock in it whatsoever.