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Does Hospital Magnet Status Live Up to Promise?

Almost 40 years have passed since the American Academy of Nursing Taskforce published a study highlighting the Forces of Magnetism concept to describe organizations that possessed qualities that would both attract and retain nurses. Since then, 523 hospitals across the globe have achieved ‘Magnet Recognition Status,” a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate both the strength and quality of their nursing by meeting  five requirements:

  • transformational leadership
  • structural empowerment
  • exemplary professional practice
  • new knowledge
  • innovations and improvement
  • empirical quality results

But does Magnet recognition truly translate into improved workplace and patient care experiences?

Findings from a newly-published review in the American Journal of Nursing suggest that Magnet hospitals provided substantially better nursing, patient, and organizational outcomes than non-Magnet hospitals. Specific findings from the 21 included studies demonstrated that compared with non-magnet hospitals or those in process of obtaining Magnet recognition, Magnet hospitals:

  • Nursing staff benefits: Magnet hospitals had less nurse turnover and fewer fingerstick injuries, fewer reports of job dissatisfaction and burnout, and less overall physical demands.
  • Benefits for patients range from lower central venous catheter line infections, postoperative sepsis, and postoperative metabolic derangements rates, to declines in  incidences of falls, pressure ulcers, postsurgical complications and mortality. Patients in these hospitals reported better nurse communication around pain management, medication explanations, and recovery times. Study findings published this past February in the Journal of Nursing Administration also suggest that Magnet hospitals provide better quality in end of life care. 
  • A win-win for hospital administration: Magnet hospitals offer staff more opportunities for shared decision making and governance, and even with >2% greater net inpatient costs, overall net revenues increased roughly 4%. Magnets also provided more optimal work environments, and by and large, employed a more highly educated (BA or greater) nursing workforce, and had lower patient-nurse ratios, and greater number of hospital beds and admissions.

Not everyone is happy with the changes imposed by achieving a Magnet status. Some claim that that benefits are skewed toward the institution (e.g. enhanced marketing practices and bolstered profit margins vs a happier, fulfilled nursing workforce). A 2017 article suggested that the original intent of the program has been lost and nurses feel a loss of autonomy and flexibility, as well as little organizational support for the nursing culture. Other challenges include the focus on technology versus patient-centered care, and a loss of critical thinking skills. Additionally, a workforce that boasts advanced degrees ultimately excludes licensed practice nurses, associate degree, and diploma nurses from employment opportunities. The bottom line is that achieving a magnet status can be costly in terms of time and resources, costs that may be recouped financially but not necessarily culturally.


About Magnet. History of the Magnet Program. American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Find a Magnet Organization. American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Magnet Model – Creating a Magnet Culture. American Nurses Credentialing Center.

How Magnet Hospital Status Affects Nurses, Patients, and Organizations: A Systematic Review. Am J Nursing. 

Quality of End of Life Care in Magnet® and Non-Magnet Hospitals. J Nurs Admin.

Magnet Status: Superior Care or Marketing Gimmick? MedPage Today.

Latest Data on Diversity. AACN Nursing. 

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