Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Magnet Hospital Study Says So Much

A recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing shows a dramatically lower mortality rate and better patient outcomes at Magnet hospitals. The authors concluded that these results are largely due to "measured nursing characteristics". It's yet another feather in nurses' (non-existent) caps.

The study, whose abstract can be viewed here, examined outcomes from the study of 56 Magnet hospitals and 508 non-Magnet hospitals. After taking into consideration differences in patients and facilities, the researchers concluded the following:
The lower mortality we find in Magnet hospitals is largely attributable to measured nursing characteristics but there is a mortality advantage above and beyond what we could measure. Magnet recognition identifies existing quality and stimulates further positive organizational behavior that improves patient outcomes.
The researchers also concluded that hospitals that have earned a Magnet designation have better work environments, and more nurses with Bachelors Degrees and other advanced certifications.

It seems very clear that facilities that support nurses and create positive work environments have better overall outcomes, including fewer patient falls, higher nurse job satisfaction, and (one would hope and assume) lower rates of nurse burnout and compassion fatigue.

My personal jury has already returned its verdict: hospitals--whether Magnet or not--need to step up their efforts to support nurses, create healthy work environments, and assess ways in which they can better serve their employees who are so crucial to their success. Cutting corners, pushing nurses to the limit, and otherwise squeezing every last drop out of each nurse will only backfire in the end.

While some for-profit or managed care health systems indeed focus on the long trusted economic bottom line, I assert that there are multiple bottom lines, and one of those bottom lines is the satisfaction of the people who are employed to deliver care. Measures to increase the economic health of a healthcare institution often fly in the face of compassion and common sense, so health care facilities need to reassess the calculus with which they measure their "success".

Studies such as the one conducted by The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing show us beyond the shadow of a doubt that positive work environments and the conscientious support of nurses pays dividends far beyond the shallow calculations of number-crunchers. Saving money in the short run may seem intelligent, but investing in the success and job satisfaction of nurses will pay dividends (both financial and human) beyond their wildest dreams.

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