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What are Magnet Hospitals? (And Why It Matters for Nurses)

Daniel Bal, MS.Ed
Updated December 22, 2022
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    Magnet hospitals are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as providing the highest level of care, providing benefits to both patients and nurses.
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    Magnet hospitals provide exceptional healthcare services and quality of care. They are the gold standard among medical facilities and top best hospital lists. Currently, there are over 600 magnet hospitals in the United States and 13 abroad.

    Take an in-depth look at magnet hospitals, including how they receive the designation, where they are located, and how working in one can benefit nurses.

    What is a Magnet Hospital?

    Recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), magnet hospitals provide excellent healthcare and invest in their nurses by providing academic and professional development.

    The ANCC started the magnet program to provide a roadmap for hospitals to achieve nursing excellence. This designation highlights that the facility provides the highest quality of patient care while incorporating the most up-to-date and innovative practices.

    Magnet hospitals have high levels of employee and patient satisfaction, showing they value nursing talent and recognize the importance of providing an outstanding patient experience. These hospitals attract the best and brightest nurses, employing those whose values, experiences, and knowledge allow these facilities to maintain the highest standards.

    The number of magnet hospitals has grown significantly since the ANCC began awarding the designation in the mid-90s. Before the turn of the century, there were nine such hospitals. But, that number grew exponentially in the last two decades to over 600 hospitals.

    The ANCC continues to award hospitals at home and abroad with magnet status, highlighting the medical community’s desire to provide the best care.

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    Requirements for Magnet Hospital Recognition

    The application process to become a magnet hospital can be a long and complicated process that includes submitting documentation to the ANCC and participating in a site visit.

    The entire process can take up to a year to complete. Because being a magnet hospital is the highest credential a medical facility can receive, proving they are worthy of the designation is quite rigorous.

    Hospitals must satisfy several criteria identified by the ANNC to be eligible. The magnet model provides a framework for hospitals to achieve excellence in nursing. The five components of the magnet model include the following:

    1. 1

      Transformative Leadership

      Magnet hospitals must demonstrate that its nursing leaders can implement change to improve their facility’s behaviors, values, and beliefs to meet future demands. Not only does this require clinical knowledge, but also the use of evidence-based and innovative approaches to promote new ideas that expand the organization’s vision and influence.
    2. 2

      Structural Empowerment

      Leadership should provide an innovative and comfortable environment to achieve the hospital’s vision and values. The facility’s organizational structure must empower its nursing staff to carry out the hospital’s mission. This criteria considers the hospital’s personnel policies, professional development opportunities, and collaboration level with staff and community members.
    3. 3

      Exemplary Professional Practice

      at magnet hospitals need to clearly demonstrate their role in working with patients, families, and community members by applying new knowledge to their practices. The ANCC emphasizes communication between the nursing department and the medical staff. The focus is not only on the quality of nursing but also on what it can achieve for all stakeholders.
    4. 4

      New Knowledge, Innovation, and Improvements

      Magnet hospitals must demonstrate their commitment to advancing their patient care methods and nursing practices. To earn the magnet designation, the facility needs to showcase its ability to consistently make improvements through knowledge and innovation. Magnet hospitals consistently redesign their systems and practices based on the evolution of the medical field, allowing them to adequately prepare for the future.
    5. 5

      Empirical Quality Results

      The foundation of any magnet hospital rests on its impact on its staff, patients, and community. Hospitals must showcase the results of their practices through empirical evidence. Their success is typically evaluated based on three areas — patient satisfaction, nurse satisfaction, and clinical outcomes.

    Outside of the five model components, the ANCC lists general requirements hospitals must meet. These requirements focus on nursing leadership, educational criteria standards for nurse administrators, protected feedback procedures, regulatory compliance, and data collection.

    Once a hospital obtains magnet status, the designation is in effect for four years. At the end of the four years, facilities must reapply. The hospital retains its magnet status during the renewal process.

    What Does Magnet Hospital Status Mean for Nurses?

    Magnet hospitals provide nurses with a collaborative culture, job satisfaction, professional development opportunities, a safe environment, and an increased success rate.

    The hospitals provide patients with the comfort of knowing they are receiving the best care and nurses with many professional benefits. The magnet designation indicates that nurses play an integral role in creating positive patient experiences and outcomes.

    Benefit 1: Job satisfaction

    Nurses who are recognized as an essential part of the hospital have an increased sense of job satisfaction while avoiding burnout. According to a Journal of Nursing Administration study, nurses working in magnet hospitals were 18% less likely to be dissatisfied with their job, and 13% less likely to report high levels of burnout compared to those working in non-magnet hospitals.

    Benefit 2: Collaborative culture

    Magnet hospitals create a collaborative environment by engaging all staff in the decision-making process. Within these facilities, each department is equally valued and works together to improve healthcare services and keep staff energized and committed to the hospital’s mission.

    Benefit 3: Professional development

    To maintain their magnet status, hospitals must have nurses in leadership positions. These facilities offer ways for nurses to increase their skills and advance their careers. To do so, magnet hospitals offer professional development opportunities to ensure nurses are well-trained and held to the highest standards.

    Benefit 4: Safe environment

    Patient and nurse safety is improved in these magnet hospitals, according to Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidenced-Based Handbook for Nurses. Because nurses play an important role in magnet hospitals, they have more of a say in conditions or patient issues that may compromise their safety. The insight nurses provide aids in the continuous improvement of safety protocols.

    Benefit 5: Increased success

    According to the American Public Health Association’s Medical Care study, the mortality rates in magnet hospitals are significantly lower than non-magnet hospitals. While this is an obvious benefit for patients, working in a magnet hospital allows nurses to be more effective in providing the best care.

    Magnet Hospitals by City and State

    Magnet hospitals are located in 48 states and Washington D.C, with Nevada and New Mexico the only outliers.

    The following table identifies the top ten states that have the most magnet hospitals. Seven of those states – California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio – also rank in the top ten in regard to population.

    Top 10 States, By Total Number of Magnet Hospitals
    RankCityTotal Number of Magnet Hospitals
    3New York46
    7New Jersey33

    Source: ANCC, 2022

    The following chart identifies the metropolitan areas with the most magnet hospitals. The majority of these cities are in states with the most magnet hospitals except for Massachusetts and Tennessee.

    Top 10 Cities, By Total Number of Magnet Hospitals
    RankCityTotal Number of Magnet Hospitals
    1Houston, TX13
    2Dallas, TX9
    3Chicago, IL8
    4Boston, MA8
    5New York, NY8
    6Philadelphia, PA8
    7Pittsburgh, PA8
    8Los Angeles, CA7
    9Jacksonville, FL6
    10Nashville, TN6

    Source: ANCC, 2022

    What to Remember About Magnet Hospitals

    Before earning the magnet status, hospitals must complete an arduous vetting process that requires the facility to operate at the highest level. Once meeting the criteria, hospitals provide significant benefits not only to the patients but also to their staff. Nurses specifically enjoy increased job satisfaction, more influence in hospital operations, and professional development opportunities.

    Since 2010, over 360 hospitals have earned magnet status, with more than 100 earning the designation in the last three years. As healthcare standards continue to evolve and hospitals raise their level of care, more facilities may achieve this recognition.

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    Page last reviewed on December 15, 2022

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