A photograph of three medical professionals wearing hair coverings smiling as they speak to each other in a hospital hallway.

What Is a Magnet®-Designated Hospital—And Why Should It Matter To You?

  • Nurses often spend more time at a patient’s bedside than any other healthcare professional. That’s why you may want to know if you’re being treated at a Magnet-recognized hospital—especially if you’re facing a serious illness like cancer.

    Magnet status is regarded as the highest recognition of excellence in nursing a hospital can receive. Only about 9 percent of all U.S. hospitals have earned this designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

    Among them is Fox Chase Cancer Center, which in 2000 became Pennsylvania’s first hospital—and the country’s first specialty hospital—to achieve Magnet status. It has remained a designated Magnet hospital ever since.

    Magnet recognition is such an effective measure of high-quality patient care that U.S. News & World Report uses it in its ranking criteria for its yearly list of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

    Becoming a Magnet-designated hospital

    To earn Magnet recognition, hospitals undergo a rigorous—and voluntary—evaluation.

    First, they must submit extensive data showing how well they meet certain standards in 14 key areas that together result in exceptional nursing and patient care.

    After that review, Magnet appraisers visit high-scoring hospitals for a three-day assessment. During it, hospital staff—from senior management to all levels of care providers and support staff —share feedback about how well the hospital meets patients’ needs and how well the providers and staff work together.

    “The on-site evaluators aren’t just looking at nurses under the microscope,” said Kathy Wolf, MBA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, director of Magnet and nursing quality at Fox Chase. “They’re looking to see if everyone in a hospital works in a collaborative environment that achieves the best outcomes for patients.”

    And when hospitals receive Magnet recognition, the designation isn’t permanent. Hospitals must reapply—and undergo another comprehensive review—every four years.

    Better patient outcomes in hospitals with Magnet designation

    So what exactly can you expect if you are cared for in a Magnet hospital? An emphasis on quality and safety to promote your healthiest future.

    According to the ANCC, research shows that Magnet hospitals have:

    • Decreased mortality rates
    • Increased patient satisfaction
    • Fewer pressure ulcers and falls among patients
    • Lower rates of hospital acquired infections

    “Patients at Magnet hospitals say their pain is better controlled, nurses answer their call buttons faster, and they’re better informed at discharge,” Jadwin said.

    These advantages may be because Magnet hospitals typically have higher nurse-to-patient ratios than other hospitals, which means nurses can better watch patients and recognize any complications sooner.

    And those nurses are well-educated. Nurses at Magnet hospitals have higher rates of bachelor’s and graduate degrees in nursing, as well as specialty certification in areas such as oncology, pain management, critical care, and medical surgical nursing.

    Also important: At Magnet hospitals, nurses’ voices are heard.

    “There is a shared decision making model so that bedside nurses—who have  firsthand knowledge of patient needs—have input into policy, procedures, and standards of practice,” said Jadwin. “And leadership is listening so that we can  act on staff feedback to improve  outcomes for patients.”

    Continuous improvement

    The Magnet designation is awarded based on a hospital’s quality of care, in addition to its commitment to improve care.

    “Those of us in Magnet hospitals are always looking to see how something can be done better,” Jadwin said. “If we master something in one area, we start searching for the next opportunity to improve our practice.”

    Maintaining Magnet status is just one indication that Fox Chase puts patients first. Read what patients have to say about their care at Fox Chase.