Research

Frequently asked questions about achieving Magnet® recognition

Our team frequently receives questions about achieving Magnet® recognition. To get members' most pressing questions answered, we hosted a webconference with two American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) leaders:

  • Linda Lewis, MSA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE Chief Office and Executive Vice President
  • Jan Moran, MPA, BSN, RN, Director of Magnet Operations

Below you'll find their answers to frequently asked questions about the process for achieving Magnet® recognition, and advice for organizations whether you're just starting out on the Magnet® journey or applying for redesignation.

How can leaders know when their organization is ready to begin the Magnet® application process?

There are a few signs to look for:

  • Strong outcomes. The organization's performance is consistently at the highest levels, and improvements are sustained over time.

  • Shared decision-making practices are widespread. The organization's decision-making routine should include staff that are able to make sound decisions about practice, and be facilitated by strong leaders who create a secure environment for change to happen in.

  • Practice is evidence-based. Leaders introduce changes or new practices only when they are backed by strong evidence.

  • Staff are open to positive change. Readying your organization for Magnet® and the Magnet® application process involves a lot of work and can involve change—and staff buy-in is crucial. Organizations ready for Magnet® have staff who are excited about innovation and positive change, and open to trying new things.

How can leaders effectively communicate to staff what Magnet® is and why it is important?

Attending the Magnet® conference is a great way for frontline leaders to learn about Magnet® from the ANCC and connect with leaders from Magnet® organizations who can share advice based on their own experiences communicating Magnet® to their staff. A better understanding of the evidence and research behind Magnet® also equips leaders to communicate the importance of the Magnet® journey to staff.

Organizations seeking Magnet® recognition should already have incorporated strategies for effective communication, including shared governance. These can be used to get messages about Magnet® out to staff.

What common pitfalls do organizations face when applying for Magnet® recognition for the first time, or re-applying?

We see a few common mistakes:

  • Failing to contact the ANCC office before submitting documentation. We recommend leaders check in with the ANCC before submitting documentation to ensure they present their documentation effectively. Many questions are very nuanced, and a thorough understanding of the application requirements and the questions themselves is important to achieve Magnet® status.

  • Stressing processes instead of outcomes. Leaders must measure and report outcomes—rather than describe the processes that lead those outcomes. Leaders should be able to demonstrate that their patients feel they are getting the care they deserve and that nurses feel they are getting the support they need. If you're doing all of that, you should have no problem demonstrating positive clinical outcomes.

  • Providing narratives without evidence. You need to demonstrate that your narratives are substantiated by evidence such as meeting minutes, emails, data, policies, and practice guidelines.

  • Submitting too many pieces of evidence. There is a five-piece limit for each narrative. If you do submit more than five pieces of evidence, the appraisers will only look at the first five—even if your best are at the bottom of the list.

When it comes to applying for redesignation, organizations often lose focus and find themselves scrambling to get their documents ready in the six months leading up to the deadline. To avoid this, we recommend leaders check in with the ANCC at the two-year interim report mark to make sure they're on track. This gives organizations the opportunity to engage with their analysts, get questions answered, and ensure they're well-prepared before the deadline.

How do the requirements for Pathway to Excellence® designation compare to those for Magnet® designation?

The standards of the two programs are in fact very different, though they both have similar end-goals, such as creating an engaged workforce. The biggest difference is that organizations with Pathways to Excellence® designation do not have to submit the measurement and evidence of outcomes and research required for Magnet® designation. This means Pathways organizations cannot receive credit for certain items that are also components of Magnet® designation.

The Pathways standards look like the precursor to Magnet®, in that they help you ensure the right infrastructure for ideal nursing practice. But organizations applying for Magnet® should already have the structure and processes in place. Instead, Magnet® places more focus on the outcomes yielded by that infrastructure.

Check out the Dynamic Magnet Crosswalk tool

What benefits do organizations with Pathways to Excellence® achieve from Magnet®?

Organizations with Pathways to Excellence® already have a strong foundation. Magnet® takes that solid foundation and bolsters it with evidence-based practice, research, and dissemination of knowledge.

Who should own the Magnet® application process?

While everyone in the organization must play a part in the Magnet® designation process, the true owner is the CNO.

But organizations often hire a Magnet® program director to lead the operations of applying for and sustaining Magnet® designation and to be the point person for the ANCC office.

We recommend leaders choose a Magnet® director who is internal—so they are knowledgeable about the organization's culture—comfortable working with data, and has strong project management and communication skills. This individual needs to plan and see the designation or redesignation process through, while identifying areas that need work to align with Magnet®.

An additional benefit of selecting an internal hire for the Magnet® director role is the ability to better personalize the application and documentation to staff's experiences and the organization's culture.

What should leaders expect to happen in a site visit?

The site visit is the validation of the submitted written documentation. In other words, appraisers are looking to get a feel for the organization's culture, how the organization feels about the transition, and what the organization’s practice looks like. The appraisers also evaluate whether the examples you provide in your written documentation are actually incorporated throughout the organization versus one-off examples. Appraisers are trained to pick up on where standards are truly incorporated into the organization's culture, and where there are gaps.

When appraisers go into a site visit they will meet with as many staff as they can. They go to every unit to speak to the nurses and have focus groups. They also talk to board members, clinical nurses, advanced practice nurses, medical staff, patients and families of patients. In addition, they speak with community leaders. At the end of each day during the visit, the appraisers meet with the CNO and have a candid discussion about what they saw.

What is Magnet®'s definition of a leader?

We often receive this question because of the requirement that all nurse leaders are have a degree in nursing (bachelor's or higher).

Get more resources for nurse leaders on the Nurse Manager Portal

Nurse leader is not an official title—what we consider a leader depends mostly on their role. A nurse leader's primary role is to influence patient care. Nurse leaders usually sit between the nurse manager and the CNO. They may report directly or indirectly to the CNO. They also may be heads of service lines or education.

On the application the CNO must attest that 100% of nurse leaders and nurse managers have a bachelor's degree (or higher degree) in nursing. So for example, a nurse manager could have an advanced degree in nursing, or a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in nursing.

One requirement in the application is to submit an "approved plan" to achieve 80% BSN by 2020. What should the plan look like?

We're looking for a plan—it doesn't have to have been approved yet—that shows an approach you think will work for your organization. The plan should be realistic and be explicit in how it will achieve the end-goal. It could involve sending current staff back to school, or exclusively hiring nurses with a minimum of a bachelor's in nursing going forward.

How does an organization demonstrate "innovation?" In other words, what are you looking for in the Magnet® Model Component: New Knowledge, Innovation, and Improvements?

We are looking for contributions to patient care, the organization, or the profession that are novel, or improved—so innovation can even be defined as refining a practice nurses already do. For example, an organization can take an existing practice and change it to create a different effect, or tailor it to a specific patient population.

Two examples of innovations that don't meet our definition are:

  1. Taking a practice that's been around in nursing for five or 10 years and incorporating it into the organization's practice. It may be new to the organization, but it's not new to nursing.

  2. Research that does not yield practical use—or that can't be used to improve practice. We're not only looking for the act of conducting a research project. The goal is to identify a new practice, implement it, and sustain the positive results of the change.

Where can leaders get more questions about Magnet® answered?

ANCC publishes and frequently updates Magnet® FAQs on their website, which contains information on topics including:

  • Guidelines for data collection
  • Formatting and submitting evidence
  • Professional practice requirements
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