Making the case for Magnet® designation to the C-suite

With the added financial pressures hospitals currently are experiencing, all costs are
being examined—and with good reason. For hospitals that have attained Magnet® designation, those seeking redesignation, and those on the Journey to Magnet Excellence™, the chief nursing officer (CNO) is the logical point person for convincing other senior executives (commonly called the C-suite, for the “chief” in their titles) of the value of Magnet designation to an organization.

Many articles have described how organizations benefit from Magnet recognition. This article presents a summary of the most important points of these articles. (For a list of these articles, see the selected references at the end of this article.) CNOs can use these points when discussing the importance of obtaining Magnet recognition with their executive colleagues.

  • Magnet designation is not a prize or an award. It’s a credential bestowed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (the world’s largest and most prestigious nurse credentialing organization), that formally recognizes an organization’s attainment of nursing excellence. (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Magnet recognition extends beyond an organization’s nursing staff. It’s a process that “requires organizations to develop, disseminate, and enculturate evidence-based criteria that result in a positive work environment for nurses and, by extension, all employees.” (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Quality indicators are increasingly important for both organizational cost savings and reimbursement. Nurses play a major role in enhancing quality and safety. Magnet-recognized organizations have lower incidences of pressure ulcers and falls, both of which relate directly to cost. Each patient fall per hospitalization costs an estimated $35,000. Magnet hospitals have a 10.3% lower fall rate than non-Magnet hospitals. (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Several studies indicate a significant positive link between overall Magnet hospital characteristics for nurses and the perceived patient-safety climate. (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Research by Aiken found Magnet environments are associated with significantly better mortality outcomes 30 days from admission. They also achieved better outcomes in nurse
    safety, job burnout, and patient satisfaction. (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Magnet-recognized hospitals have a history of enhanced nurse job satisfaction. Registered nurses (RNs) who work in Magnet hospitals report higher satisfaction with their present jobs (85% are very or somewhat satisfied) than RNs in non-Magnet hospitals. RN job turnover, vacancy rates, and use of agency nurses illustrate the importance of nurse satisfaction with the work environment. Magnet organizations consistently show significant differences in all of these costly indicators. The financial implications are reflected by the cost of turnover for one RN, which generally is accepted to be the same as the annual salary for the RN being replaced. (Drenkard, 2010.)
  • Recent research has found Magnet-recognized hospitals have better work environments and more nurses with bachelor-of-science-in-nursing degrees and specialty certifications—
    characteristics linked to lower mortality. In Magnet hospitals, lower mortality can be attributed to these nursing characteristics. Magnet recognition puts a spotlight on existing
    quality and stimulates further positive organizational behavior, which in turn further
    enhances patient outcomes. (McHugh et al., 2013).
  • A major outcome of Magnet recognition is improvement in the work environment, staffing, and educational levels of nursing staff. A recent study examined the relationships among these three variables in the workplace and 30-day readmission rates for patients with
    heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and pneumonia. The researchers concluded that
    improving the nursing work environment and staffing levels helps prevent readmissions.
    (McHugh & Ma, 2013.)
  • Magnet organizations must show evidence of excellence in nurse satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and clinical outcomes. Nurses can deliver on all three of these important measures. “The power of nursing drives exceptional performance and helps organizations meet the demands of today’s complex healthcare environment for better care, better access, and lower cost. With excellence in nursing care comes excellence in patient care. Magnet recognition provides a roadmap for nurse executives to achieve these goals.” (Drenkard, 2013.)

The points discussed above address the issues that matter most to hospitals’ chief executive officers, chief operating officers, and chief financial officers. When discussing the value of Magnet recognition in the C suite, CNOs should emphasize the abundance of research data demonstrating the value of Magnet designation to an organization, nurses and other staff, patient satisfaction, and patient-care outcomes.

Another advantage of Magnet recognition is in helping CNOs better understand how to hardwire a research program into the organization. A strong research program is invaluable for improving processes and care, as well as for sparking innovation.

Choose the best approach

Before sharing the information in this article with C-suite colleagues, CNOs should consider speaking with each officer individually so each can ask questions and understand each point. This individual approach might be more effective than sharing in a formal meeting venue—or it may be used before a group discussion occurs. But whether you share the information with the whole group, individual executives, or both, the discussion will provide a better understanding of the value of Magnet designation. The financial costs and intangible expenses of the Journey to Magnet Excellence will yield financial and human rewards that make achieving Magnet recognition well worth the investment.

Selected references


Drenkard K. The business case for Magnet. J Nurs Adm. 2010;40(6):263-71.

Drenkard K. The value of Magnet. J Nurs Adm. 2013;43(10):S2-3.

McHugh M, Kelly LA, Smith HL, Wu ES, Vanak JM, Aiken LH. Lower mortality in Magnet hospitals. Med Care. 2013;51(5):382-8.

McHugh MD, Ma C. Hospital nursing and 30-day readmissions among Medicare patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and pneumonia. Med Care. 2013;51(1):52-9.

Michael L. Evans is Dean and Professor, School of Nursing, University Medical Center Endowed Chair for Excellence in Nursing at Texas Tech University.

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