May 12, 2017 7:00 AM

For Nurses Week, Chief Nurse Executive Discusses Magnet Status

The Magnet Recognition Program® isn’t a prize or an award. It’s a performance-driven recognition credential.


University of Michigan hospitals joined an elite group this year — the Magnet Recognition Program®.

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The distinction, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, is the highest and most prestigious distinction a health care organization can receive for nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. With only 6 percent of U.S. hospitals earning the Magnet designation, it’s the gold standard.

The history

The ANCC established the Magnet Recognition Program® in 1994 to recognize health care organizations with high-quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. The process to achieve Magnet recognition includes rigorous documentation and site visits with specific emphases on leadership, staff empowerment, an established nursing practice model, support for knowledge generation and application, and quality-improvement mechanisms.

"We will continue to set the bar high for ourselves and continuously improve our practice … that’s what patients and families can be confident in."
Chief Nurse Executive Margaret Calarco

Patient impact

A 2015 study led by Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, found that surgical patients treated in Magnet hospitals were 7.7 percent less likely to die within 30 days of an operation and 8.6 percent less likely to die after a postoperative complication, compared with patients in non-Magnet hospitals.

As a part of Nurses Week, we sat down with Michigan Medicine’s Chief Nurse Executive Margaret Calarco to learn more about the Magnet Recognition Program® and what it means.

Michigan Medicine’s Chief Nurse Executive Margaret Calarco

Why did Michigan Medicine pursue the Magnet Recognition Program®?

Calarco: We didn’t initially pursue the recognition because we didn’t want to just rally around an award. In 2012, we decided we wanted to pursue Magnet recognition to ensure that the nation knew about our excellence in nursing care. We have been working on patient care, improving our practice environment for nurses and improving patient outcomes over the past many years. When we did decide to pursue the designation, we rallied around improving care and took the criteria not as an award, but as a challenge to continue elevating our practice.

One important way that we have distinguished ourselves from others in the country is our partnership with our union leaders. Leaders from our local union, the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) and the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) and U-M nursing leadership came together early in our journey to work together to pursue Magnet designation. We created processes together all along the way to be successful.

Why should patients care about the recognition?

Calarco: Patients should know that Magnet hospitals possess some of the highest levels of patient outcomes in terms of conditions like the prevention of falls, pressure ulcers and different kinds of infections. They should also know that this distinction means they are within a facility with a strong collaborative community and that the organization at large works very well together. That disciplines work well together, and this includes everyone including the physicians, nurses, pharmacists and many others. Patients and families want to receive care in an environment where people work well together to do their best work.

What does the recognition mean for the future?

Calarco: It enables us to continue to focus and elevate our practice — to be even better and to improve our care even more. We are proud to be Magnet-designated, but Magnet designation is not a one-time event. We will continue to meet the criteria. The criteria will continue to change. It will be more rigorous and even more patient-centered, and we welcome that. The Magnet distinction helps to support and sustain our journey of excellence.

Is the Magnet distinction only for nurses?

Calarco: Magnet recognition is about nursing excellence and is nursing-led, but the process to earn the recognition engages everyone across the organization. As an organization, it shows we really value each other, collaborate with each other and help each other in the practice of patient care. We know that when interprofessional teams collaborate and work well together, that’s when the finest patient care occurs.

Will patient care be any different now that the bar has been set higher?

Calarco: In 2009, we came together to create our “true north” statement. It’s the single most important statement that guides our work. We want everyone to know that we are always relentlessly striving to provide the finest care to those who choose to place their lives in our hands. That is our guiding principle. We will continue to set the bar high for ourselves and continuously improve our practice … that’s what patients and families can be confident in.