What are the Forces of Magnetism and Why Should You Care About Them?

Part One of a four-part series dealing with the Magnet Recognition Program® – a coveted designation that indicates excellence in nursing practice.

In 1983, during a nationwide nursing shortage, a landmark research study identified 14 characteristics that differentiated the hospitals best able to recruit and retain nurses. These traits became the “Forces of Magnetism” that now form the conceptual framework for the Magnet Recognition Program® – a coveted designation that indicates excellence in nursing practice.

So what are these mysterious forces? They are usually described as:

  • High-quality nursing leadership
  • An organizational structure that places nurses in executive positions
  • A management style that values and encourages employee feedback
  • Flexible, forward-thinking personnel and staffing policies
  • Continuous quality-improvement initiatives
  • Adequate resources, in the form of nursing experts
  • Nurses that are empowered to work autonomously
  • Partnerships between the hospital and community organizations
  • Nurses as teachers and mentors
  • The image that nursing is essential to the organization
  • Interdisciplinary relationships that are collaborative
  • An emphasis on professional development

You can read about all 14 Forces of Magnetism at the ANCC website – the list is accompanied by a short description of why each one is important. But essentially, the “Forces” embody a professional environment in which nursing’s contributions are valued and nurses have a voice. Magnet hospitals also have visionary leadership, flexible personnel policies, high quality care delivery systems, and a culture that values professional development and higher education – all desirable characteristics that have been shown to draw in nurses like a magnet attracts steel.

Building a culture of engagement

Bedside nursing is a complex, sometimes stressful job that requires a highly dedicated workforce. A lot has been written on the topic of worker “engagement” – engaged workers are defined as those who are fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and therefore will act in ways that will furthers the interests of their organization. In all industries, high worker engagement is usually correlated with higher productivity levels, creative problem solving, and innovation.

Not surprisingly, research reveals that nurses at hospitals with the Magnet designation of excellence are significantly more engaged in their work than nurses at other hospitals. And when nurses are engaged, everyone wins: floor nurses are more satisfied with their jobs and their work-life balance; and nurse managers spend less time recruiting and training new hires. When nurses are engaged in their jobs, their patients also win: research published by Gallup indicates that the level of nursing engagement at a facility is a reliable predictor of mortality and complication rates. These are compelling reasons for nurses to care about the forces of magnetism, and to actively work toward the goal of achieving Magnet status for their organizations.

Preparing for Magnet status

It is notoriously difficult to earn this prestigious designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The process may stretch out over several years, and the required narrative for the application will likely be hundreds of pages long. Hospitals often have to budget huge amounts of money for additional resources, in order to meet all requirements and plug up any holes in operational processes.

If your hospital is currently embarking on this journey, it’s important for you to remember that it is not simply trying to win an award, or the right to display the Magnet logo. Preparing for Magnet status is about quality of care and patient satisfaction. But it is also about empowering you – the nurse – to be autonomous, to experience professional growth, and to be seen as a valued partner with doctors and other members of the health care team.  Because the true essence of a Magnet organization is exemplary professional practice within nursing, you need to stay abreast of the new expectations that are coming your way. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the changes ahead.

Learn how you can prepare yourself and your facility for Magnet status with an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree.
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