Feature | May 28, 2007

Nurses in Beacon and Magnet Designated Units and Organizations Report Healthier Work Environments and Higher Job Satisfaction

AACN: Study findings by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the Gannett Healthcare Group, and the Bernard Hodes Group found that nurses who work in organizations or units that have met or are pursuing the national excellence standard of a Beacon or Magnet designation report healthier work environments and higher satisfaction with their jobs. Several past studies have found that healthy work environments — characterized by strong communication and collaboration between healthcare team members, among other factors — have a direct impact on increased patient safety and improved patient outcomes.

The Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence was established in 2003 by AACN and recognizes individual critical care units as well as progressive care units that meet high quality standards, demonstrating exceptional care of patients and their families while fostering and sustaining healthy work environments. The Magnet Recognition Program was developed and is administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an independent subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA), recognizing healthcare organizations that demonstrate excellence in nursing care and professional nursing practice.

“This research shows that a core strategy of effective patient care and nurse satisfaction must include pursuing national Beacon and Magnet excellence standards. It’s not just a value-added benefit,” said Wanda Johanson, RN, MN, CEO of AACN. “The concrete evidence in this study shows that healthier work environments, higher job satisfaction for nurses, and thus better patient outcomes, are best achieved by organizations and units that pursue and achieve excellence standards.”

The survey of more than 4,000 acute and critical care nurses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found the most significant differences related to collaboration and communication, support for professional growth and development, leadership and satisfaction, and patient outcomes. Nurse respondents in the survey consistently rated each of these criteria higher when working in Magnet organizations and Beacon Units.

The study found that nurses who worked in Magnet organizations, Beacon units, or those pursuing such designations were more satisfied with nursing as a career and with their current nursing positions. Respondents also found frontline managers, who represent vital leadership in an organization as they understand the vision and social structure, as having higher perceived skill levels in Beacon and Magnet organizations. For example:
• Seventy-one percent of respondents from Magnet organizations and 78 percent of respondents from Beacon units rated frontline managers as having excellent/good decision-making skills
• Only 54 percent of respondents from organizations with no Magnet activity and 56 percent of respondents from units with no Beacon activity rated frontline managers with excellent/good decision-making skills.

Additionally, Magnet organizations and Beacon units as well as those pursuing these excellence designations are more supportive of continuing education (CE) and certification. In many instances, organizations and units in pursuit of excellence are more supportive than those who have already obtained the designations, indicating the need for sustainable efforts that continue after excellence designations are achieved.
• More than 50 percent of respondents from Magnet-pursuit organizations and approximately 60 percent of respondents from Beacon-pursuit units responded that their organizations and units pay/reimburse initial certification exam fee.
• Meanwhile, only about 40 percent of organizations with no Beacon activity and 40 percent of units with no Magnet activity said their units pay or reimburse the initial certification exam fee.

These survey results continue to add evidence to the fact that healthy work environments, particularly as they pertain to communication, collaboration, and staffing, are related to increased patient safety and improved patient outcomes. At both the unit and organization level, nurses in the study rated the current quality of care as significantly lower in organizations and units that had not achieved and were not pursuing excellence designation.

Karen A. Hart, RN, BSN, senior vice president, health care division, Bernard Hodes Group, explains, “Results of this study verify what we have suspected for many years-that a commitment to excellence through programs such as Magnet and Beacon Unit recognition fosters satisfaction and thus retention of our valuable nursing professionals. Obtaining Magnet and Beacon recognition should be a core strategy of the proactive health care organization.”

Beth Ulrich, EdD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president, Gannett Healthcare Group Consulting Services, and corresponding author of the study, adds, “These results offer compelling evidence to support what we have intuitively believed – the pursuit and achievement of excellence makes a positive difference in the health of nursing work environments and in nurses’ job satisfaction.”

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