Eighteen Suburban Hospital nurses traveled to Orlando, Florida, in October 2019 to accept Magnet Recognition for the hospital at the annual American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) National Magnet Conference.
Magnet Recognition, considered the top distinction in nursing, recognizes organizations that empower nurses to create and implement strategies that improve patient outcomes. To become Magnet designated, hospitals submit detailed applications that include stories of patient care successes.
The honor, which must be renewed every four years, has been bestowed on only 8% of hospitals nationwide, including The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve been a nurse a long time, and this was the highlight of my career,” says Karin Nevius, B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.-K., a Suburban Hospital nurse since 1982 and the director of professional practice and nursing quality. “We’ve been Magnet-like for a long time, and this was a validation. It lets everybody else know what we already knew.”
Suburban Hospital, which has about 600 nurses, began preparing for Magnet Recognition about 10 years ago, says LeighAnn Sidone, D.N.P., M.S.N., C.E.N.P., chief nursing officer and interim hospital president.
Back then, Sidone helped establish nurse councils, which meet once each month and are devoted to professional practice, professional development, evidence-based practice and research, and quality, safety and service.
For example, the professional development council, co-chaired by emergency department and trauma nurse Cara Baldini, B.S.N, R.N., supports continuing education and hosts an annual brunch for newly certified nurses.
A nurse from each clinical department is represented on the councils. Members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council bring the voice of the patient and family to decision-making.
The application alone took about two years to complete. “The Magnet manual has 70 or so standards,” says Sidone, including requirements regarding nurse education and autonomy at the bedside and in the organization.
“It doesn’t tell you how to meet them. Every hospital does it differently,” Sidone says. “To apply for Magnet Recognition, you have to write a document that speaks to every one of those standards. A site visit validates your document.”
After the ANCC accepted Suburban Hospital’s application, it sent an appraisal team to the hospital in March 2019. The three-day visit was a highlight for the nurses who led the appraisers through the hospital, allowing them to interview clinical nurses, medical staff members, patient family advisers and others. “It was such an emotional and exciting period,” says Baldini, one of the nurses who served as ambassadors for the visitors. “We had worked so hard. We were so nervous.”
For the occasion, the hospital adopted a Wizard of Oz theme. Nurses wore custom T-shirts that said, “There’s no place like home,” and sneakers with red glitter.
“It was a fabulous visit,” says Sidone. “It was so fun. It was our opportunity to amplify how good we are and give the staff time to shine.”
The team members thought the visit went well, but of course, they couldn’t be sure they would receive the coveted Magnet Recognition. So when Sidone gathered nurses and others in the hospital auditorium that May to hear the decision, she didn’t know what to expect.
She put the call on speakerphone, and about 200 staff members from all over the organization listened to the commission’s decision together. Some watched on Facebook Live.
“We got the Magnet award and everyone was screaming,” says Baldini.
Five months later, Suburban Hospital clinical nurses and nurse leaders journeyed to Orlando for the convention and award ceremony, a trip funded by philanthropic support, says Nevius.
Baldini says she enjoyed meeting and learning from Magnet hospital nurses from around the world. But the highlight of the multiday conference was receiving the award. "They announce you and you walk across the stage and everyone is cheering," she says.
The nurses wore their “no place like home” shirts for the award ceremony.
“It was just so rewarding and fulfilling to get that recognition and have that moment on stage after 10 years of building that infrastructure,” says Sidone. “The designation is sort of the icing on the cake. I really wanted us to be something, not get something. We want to be that good all the time, not just when a surveyor walks in the door.”