Dartmouth Medicine HomeCurrent IssueAbout UsContact UsSearchPodcasts

Vital Signs

DHMC shows its mettle in nursing with Magnet status

The work is easy to measure: Two and a half years of preparation. Four committees. A 3,000- page report.

But the effect of DHMC's recent designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a "Magnet" institution is more difficult to quantify—though very definite. "The prime benefit," says Nancy Formella, M.S., R.N., senior nurse executive at DHMC, "is the pride and the acknowledgment that nurses can feel. . . . It's immeasurable."

Excellence: To earn Magnet status, which is the highest award the ANCC bestows, health-care organizations must meet standards of excellence in nursing practice, research, and nurse education. The standards cover data systems; interdisciplinary collaboration; ethics; nursing management; and the integration of research into the delivery of nursing care, to name a few examples.

More than 6,000 health-care organizations in the U.S. are eligible for the award; DHMC was the 95th to receive it. Applying for Magnet status meant preparing a 3,000-page report documenting 95 areas of nursing. Formella appointed an interdisciplinary Magnet Steering Committee, cochaired by Marsha Day-Donahue, B.S.N., R.N., a nurse in the Critical Care Unit; and June Stacey, B.S.N., R.N., a charge nurse in the ER. The 95 areas were divided into four themes: research, education, practice, and leadership, and a workgroup was assigned to each theme.

Each workgroup then wrote narratives on how DHMC met specific standards, attaching examples of research, policies, and programs—for example, a study on sedation in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, a description of programs on cultural sensitivity, and an outline of clinicalpractice training for nurses in age-related care.

The leadership workgroup's task was to document how nursing is involved at the highest levels across all departments, and, given the nationwide nursing shortage, how nursing management is involved in staffing and resource allocation.

Site visit: After the written application was done, the process culminated with a two-day site visit by two ANCC reviewers. They visited all units where nursing is practiced and conducted impromptu interviews with line nursing staff. The reviewers also led an interdisciplinary forum of physicians and of pharmacy, therapy, dietary, and laboratory staff, asking attendees to describe how they interact with nurses. "They were absolutely blown away by our interdisciplinary way of practicing," says Formella. "By the time we got to the end, the reviewers said, 'I don't think we've ever heard people talk about their relationship like this, as different disciplines who work together . . . it's phenomenal.'"

Attaining Magnet status "validates the wonderful work that goes on here every day, and our commitment to our patients and nurses," says June Stacey.

Rates: Research has shown that Magnet facilities have better recruitment and retention rates for nurses and physicians and, as a result, better patient outcomes. "We have new people, and especially nurses graduating from nursing programs, asking us if we have Magnet status. . . . It's very widely talked about in nursing schools as the place to look for employment, because you know that that organization's going to be committed to this gold standard," says Formella. She adds that it even helps in physician recruitment, since "doctors depend on nurses to help take care of their patients, and they know that having Magnet status means that we have an excellent nursing environment."

Magnet status is valid for four years, after which the organization has to apply for a redesignation. "I like an award that recognizes, yet seeks continued validation of, high standards. It will keep us focused," says Marsha Day-Donahue.

Matthew C. Wiencke

Back to Vital Signs

Back to Table of Contents

Dartmouth Medical SchoolDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College