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On message: Hospitals strive to convey the meaning of Magnet designation to consumers

Nancy Valentine, RN

When Capital Health held town hall meetings before building a new hospital in Hopewell Township, N.J., local residents wanted to know what would make the facility different. “One of the things that was explained is that it would be a Magnet hospital, which means a higher standard of care with excellent patient outcomes and highly educated nurses who are both at the bedside and involved in multiple levels of the hospital structure,” said Carol Blauth, RN-BC, BS, MSN, manager of clinical education at Capital Health. The response from several attendees was that they did not know about ANCC Magnet Recognition.

As nurses hear their hospitals have earned Magnet Recognition, it’s not uncommon to see a roomful of RNs erupt in applause, whistles and other signs of celebration. It’s the nursing equivalent of summiting Mt. Everest.

Facilities are required to provide extensive documentation to prove the organization has met criteria in five areas — a process that often requires years of preparation. Although many clinicians within the healthcare system understand the complexities of Magnet Recognition, conveying to the public how patients will benefit from this achievement is not an easy task.

Nurses such as Molly Billingsley, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, acting CNO at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., have seen an increase in public awareness about Magnet as the number of Magnet facilities nationwide has grown. The program, facilitated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recognized the first Magnet hospital in 1994, and now there are more than 380. Still, Magnet hospitals represent only about 6.6% of all registered hospitals in the U.S., according to ANCC.

“I think there are a growing number of people who have an appreciation for what Magnet means, but we still have much work to do to inform the public,” Billingsley said. “There are people who have not yet experienced a Magnet hospital, so they may not know that there is a difference. They may not realize that all hospitals are not the same.”

Defining the difference

Karen Drenkard, RN

Nancy Valentine, RN, PhD, MPH, FAAN, FNAP, CNO and senior vice president of Main Line Health in Bryn Mawr, Pa., has seen a gradual increase in public understanding of Magnet distinction since the hospital received its first designation in 2005. She said she believes awareness naturally begins to spread to consumers.

“CEOs and CFOs started to realize that the Magnet Recognition Program was not just a ‘feel-good’ program for staff nurses,” Valentine said. “They saw that it improved their organization to such an extent that it made it possible to recruit and retain better nurses and improve overall patient satisfaction and quality outcomes. This made Magnet [status] a business imperative. Once the circle of influence widened to the whole organization, the natural next step was to inform the community about what Magnet meant to them as consumers.”

When Georgetown University Hospital was awarded Magnet Recognition in 2004, few people in the community had heard about the program, Billingsley said. To get the word out to the public, the hospital included a section on the Magnet Recognition Program in the introductory video viewed by all patients. The video explains being a Magnet hospital means patients receive the highest quality of nursing care with the best outcomes. The message also is reinforced in the company’s promotional materials, which state the facility is a Magnet nursing hospital.

All of the nurses in the hospital also wear Magnet pins, and it is very common for patients to see the pin and ask what it means, Billingsley said. “RNs usually explain that it is the highest accolade in nursing,” she said. “Patients also hear that it means the nurses here are highly credentialed and have been recognized because they continually explore ways to improve patient care.”

Although the Magnet pins, banners and other advertisements may inform consumers a facility has Magnet status, it is important that patients and families understand Magnet Recognition is not a marketing tactic, said Karen Drenkard, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, executive director of the ANCC. “The reason facilities go on the Magnet journey is to transform the practice of nursing so they can take the best care of their patients,” she said. “Marketing is not the primary driver of why they are doing it.”

Speaking up

Marianne Ditomassi, RN

Even though a nurse’s most important job is providing quality patient care, Valentine suggests patients also are served when nurses learn how to articulate certain aspects of care related to their role as a Magnet nurse. “I think a lot of nurses feel awkward if they are in a position where they are drawing attention to what they are doing,” Valentine said. “It really takes practice to develop a skill and comfort level with clearly describing the nursing care process so colleagues from other disciplines and the public understand the elements of care.”

Valentine saw the value of training in this area when the hospital hired an experienced coach to work with nurses as they prepared for the Magnet site visit from the ANCC appraisers. The coach helped nurses communicate answers to difficult questions and craft their message. “It was phenomenal,” Valentine said. “We knew nurses were doing the work, but they had trouble articulating it. Some of the nurses started the training day in tears because they were so nervous, and by the end of the day they spoke clearly with self assurance and pride.”

At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a new resource guide to promote “Excellence Every Day,” which includes an FAQ section about Magnet Recognition. is distributed to nurses.

“We want to encourage nurses to talk out loud about their practice,” said Marianne Ditomassi, RN, MSN, MBA, executive director for patient care services operations and the Magnet Recognition Program director at Massachusetts General. “When nurses are conducting hourly safety rounds and changing a patient’s position, for example, they explain why they are doing that. They can also share how we are always evaluating new ways to prevent skin breakdown because we try to deliver the highest quality care as a Magnet hospital.”

The road ahead

Although the hospital has made progress in informing the community about the benefits of Magnet Recognition, Ditomassi said she also sees many untapped resources. One of the best ways to get the word out is to ask consumers for their own ideas about how to increase public awareness. Massachusetts General has several patient family advisory councils, and Ditomassi plans to ask members of these groups for input about educating the public.

Nurses also can have a significant influence anytime they are outside the walls of the hospital, said Blauth. Whether part of a professional or community organization, nurses have an opportunity to share what they know about Magnet.

For nurses such as Billingsley at Georgetown University Hospital, moments like this not only help the public understand the meaning of Magnet, but also the work of nurses in general.

“The public is somewhat uninformed about what contemporary nursing is,” Billingsley said. “There is still a huge subset out there who think nurses are there just to ‘help the doctor’ as opposed to having a discreet function in coordinating their healthcare. As a Magnet facility, we as nurses have defined our contribution and can show that we can care for you in ways that will make you better, faster with fewer complications.” Ÿ

Heather Stringer is a freelance writer.


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By | 2020-04-15T13:24:00-04:00 August 8th, 2011|Categories: National|0 Comments

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