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What is a Magnet Hospital?

A Magnet-designated hospital is a medical facility considered to be the gold standard for nursing practice and innovation.
Two healthcare professionals in a Magnet hospital, reviewing a patient chart

Nursing is a challenging and rewarding career. If you're interested in working in a hospital setting, it's important to know the benefits of working at one that is Magnet designated and what it means for your work and your community.

Exactly What is a Magnet Hospital?

A Magnet-designated hospital is a medical facility considered to be the gold standard for nursing practice and innovation. Magnet hospitals are certified by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) as institutions where nurses are empowered to not only take the lead on patient care but to be the drivers of institutional healthcare change and innovation.

Empowering nurses for patient benefit is a continual focus, as noted in ANCC's Magnet Mission Statement: "The Magnet Recognition Program will continually elevate patient care around the world in an environment where nurses, in collaboration with the interprofessional team, flourish by setting the standard for excellence through leadership, scientific discovery and dissemination and implementation of new knowledge."

Dr. Stacey Rosenberg, associate chief nursing administrator at SNHUAccording to Dr. Stacey Rosenberg, a magnet hospital is a healthcare institution recognized for outstanding nursing practices and quality patient care.

Rosenberg is the associate chief nursing administrator at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), a Board-Certified Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (ACNS-BC) and a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) with over two decades of experience.

She said the Magnet designation awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) signifies that a hospital has achieved a level of excellence in several critical areas. "Think of it as a gold standard, where the environment not only attracts but also retains top-tier nursing talent," Rosenberg said.

So what is Magnet status for hospitals, and how can becoming a Magnet-designated hospital impact the institution, its staff and its patients?

Magnet Status Requirements

Magnet status is the highest credential for nursing facilities in the United States and around the world. To be certified as a Magnet hospital, a medical facility must satisfy a set of criteria created by the ANCC to measure nursing excellence. According to the ANCC, Magnet status requirements include measures of:

  • Work environment
  • Nursing excellence
  • Innovations in nursing practice
  • Quality patient outcomes
A stethoscope graphic with a yellow cross and a blue background

Only 599 institutions worldwide — about 9% in the U.S. — are Magnet-designated hospitals today, according to the ANCC, but the Magnet hospital program has grown significantly since its inception in 1990.

The ANCC Magnet Recognition Program was born out of a 1983 study to identify work environments that attract and retain the best nurses who promote quality patient care.

The study found that some hospitals seemed better able to retain nurses and fill vacancies than similar hospitals in the same job markets. These so-called Magnet hospitals were found to have common organizational features, including more supportive work environments, higher job satisfaction among nurses and lower burnout rates.

In 1990, those common organizational features were officially recognized as "forces of magnitude" and became the basis of the Magnet Recognition Program.

The first Magnet hospital was credentialed in 1994. Since then, the Magnet Recognition Program has grown significantly, recognizing hundreds of hospitals around the world.

How to Achieve Magnet Status

A medical clipboard graphic with a yellow cross and a blue background It’s not a simple task to become a Magnet hospital, meaning some hospitals who apply for this designation do not receive a certification. The application and review process can be a long one, and require strong record-keeping, data analysis and solid organizational practices.

Magnet status requirements include educational standards for nurse leaders and nurse managers, ensuring a facility's top staff hold at least a nursing bachelor's degree, according to the ANCC.

Magnet hospitals must also submit an application and undergo a site visit to review their excellence in the "forces of magnetism" first identified by the Magnet hospital study in the 1980s. Today, the ANCC categorizes those organizational features into five primary components of a Magnet hospital.

1Transformational Leadership

Having a successful nursing leadership style is key for hospitals seeking this designation.

The field of nursing and healthcare is undergoing tremendous change, as technology advances, patient management becomes more data-driven and new medications and therapies become available.

According to the ANCC, "the intent of this Model Component is no longer just to solve problems, fix broken systems, and empower staff, but to actually transform the organizations to meet the future. Magnet-recognized organizations today strive for stabilization; however, healthcare reformation calls for a type of controlled destabilization that births new ideas and innovations."

The Magnet Recognition Program examines the quality of nursing leadership and the management style of hospital leaders. Magnet hospital leaders must have vision, influence, clinical knowledge and a strong expertise in nursing practice, according to the ANCC.

2Structural Empowerment

Having strong leadership is not enough for an institution to be classified as a Magnet hospital. The organizational structure of a hospital must also empower its nursing staff to innovate and put the hospital’s mission, vision and values into daily practice, according to the ANCC.

The Structural Empowerment component of Magnet designation reviews an organization’s personnel policies and practices, its professional development programs and its collaboration among the medical team and with community organizations.

Rosenberg noted that this concept is central to the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program. "It recognizes the importance of providing staff with the necessary support, resources, and opportunities to professionally develop and excel in their roles," she said.

3Exemplary Professional Practice

An icon of two hands holding a heartAn organization’s professional nursing practice is truly the foundation for its certification as a Magnet hospital. Nursing staff at Magnet hospitals must demonstrate a clear understanding of the role of nursing and how it applies to working with patients, families, communities and an interdisciplinary teams, according to the ANCC.

Magnet hospitals are assessed not only on the quality of nursing in the institution but on what that professional practice can achieve. Magnet certification reviews a number of professional practice measures, including the autonomy of its nursing staff and the relationships between its nurses and other medical teams.

4New Knowledge, Innovations and Improvements

Magnet hospitals should also display a commitment to evolving the future of patient care and nursing practice, using existing evidence, new research and innovative contributions to advance the science of nursing, according to the ANCC.

According to Rosenberg, this requirement encourages continued advancements in the medical field. "Essentially, the requirement for innovations and improvements is a driving force that ensures Magnet hospitals not only meet the current standards of healthcare but also lead the way in shaping the future of patient care and nursing practice," she said.

5Empirical Quality Results

While many of the components of a Magnet-designated hospital focus on an institution's structure and practices, the foundation of the Magnet Recognition Program is the impact these practices have on the hospital, its staff, its patients and its community, according to the ANCC.

The ANCC reported that studies have shown Magnet hospitals often have better patient outcomes and a higher standard of patient care.

The Benefits of Being a Magnet Hospital

In today’s changing healthcare landscape, patients have more choices than ever before when it comes to their medical care. From urgent care offices and pharmacies providing vaccines and simple medical tests to a spike in the number of independent labs and even at-home testing for blood work and allergies, medical institutions need to do what they can to stand out.

Earning a Magnet Recognition Program certification is a strong indicator to patients that an organization is committed to innovation, excellence in nursing and high-quality patient care.

"In a magnet hospital, nurses are empowered to be leaders in their care teams, contributing to an innovative, supportive and patient-centered healthcare environment," Rosenberg said. "This not only enhances the workplace for healthcare professionals but also elevates the level of care received by patients."

Benefits to the Hospitals

According to an article from American Nurse Today, studies have shown that Magnet-designated hospitals report better economic performance than non-Magnet hospitals. A 2014 study shared in the Medical Care journal found that becoming a Magnet hospital increased net patient revenue by an average of 3.89%, while costs only increased by 2.46%

A 2022 publication in the National Library of Medicine reported that Magnet hospitals receive an average of $104.22-$127.05 more per discharge after receiving Magnet designation, resulting in over $1,200,000 in additional income on average.

Hospitals can also see improved financial performance thanks to an improved marketing position with the Magnet designation.

According to American Nurse Today, Magnet-recognized hospitals regularly appear at the top of the list of the nation’s most prestigious hospital rankings and can more easily raise awareness of their efforts within their community, opening the door to increased philanthropic gifts and valuable community partnerships.

Benefits to Patients

A blue graphic with a white icon of a personSome of the biggest benefits of Magnet designation for hospitals may be the benefits to patients. Studies have shown that patients at Magnet facilities have lower mortality rates and better health outcomes thanks to higher nurse engagement and high-quality standards of care.

In 2022, the National Library of Medicine reported that patients in Magnet hospitals have lower fall rates and lower rates of readmission within 30 days than hospitals without the designation.

The National Library of Medicine also noted lower patient mortality rates, fewer hospital-acquired pressure injuries and overall improved patient safety in Magnet hospitals. Overall, the journal said Magnet hospitals are 16% more likely to have satisfied patients, too.

Benefits to Nurses

For nursing professionals, working in a Magnet hospital can bring many benefits, including a workplace that encourages innovation and values high-quality, professional nursing care.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Magnet hospitals have higher job satisfaction rates and lower turnover rates, with registered nurses 28% less likely to report plans to leave their jobs.

So what does it take to get a job at a Magnet hospital? While there are no specific educational requirements for non-leadership nursing staff that impact a Magnet designation, there are some things you can do to set yourself apart when applying to a Magnet hospital job.

Getting a Job at a Magnet Hospital

An icon of a graduation cap.While you can get nursing jobs at Magnet hospitals with an associate degree in nursing, earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can advance your knowledge and help you stand out among other applicants. Accelerated RN to MSN programs can help you advance your education faster.

According to Rosenberg, hospitals with a higher percentage of BSN-prepared nurses tend to have better patient outcomes. "Preferring BSN-prepared nurses helps Magnet hospitals align with these findings and the program's emphasis on excellence in nursing education and practice," she said.

Magnet-designated institutions are not alone in looking for nurses with advanced degrees. A 2020 survey from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that 41% of hospitals and other healthcare facilities were requiring new hires to have a bachelor’s degree, while 82% of healthcare employers expressed a strong preference for BSN program graduates (AACN PDF Source). If you do not have a BSN, some employers will expect you to achieve your BSN within a specific time frame such as 3-5 years after hire date and may also offer tuition reimbursement or assistance.

Some employers may expect that the BSN is achieved with a specific time frame, and may offer tuition reimbursement or assistance. The Veteran's Administration, for example, requires a BSN for promotion beyond entry-level positions, and the employer allocated $50 million to help RNs advance their education, according to the AACN.

The ANCC holds a celebration each year for Magnet-designated hospitals and those on the journey to Magnet at an annual conference. This conference has been attended by over 10,000 nurses from all over the world and offers inspiring keynote speakers, presentations by nurse leaders, poster presentations and a large exhibit hall.

No matter where your nursing degree takes you, whether to a Magnet hospital, small community hospital or another medical facility, continuing your nursing education can be an important part of advancing your career.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU healthcare program that can best help you meet your goals.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. She started her career working as an education reporter for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she reported on local schools and education policy. Gagnon served as the communications manager for a private school in Boston, MA before later starting her freelance writing career. Today, she continues to share her passion for education as a writer for Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.