Research has demonstrated that engaged nurses not only provide better patient care and outcomes, but also tend to stay in health systems where their professional contribution to quality healthcare delivery is fully appreciated. At a time when a nationwide nursing shortage has hospitals scrambling to retain the best and brightest, retaining skilled nurses is among any health system’s highest priorities.
In 2015, employee engagement scores at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital were in the 6th percentile nationwide. In the ensuing years, those scores have skyrocketed to the 85th percentile nationwide. In 2021, more than half of the nursing units at SVMH outperformed the national benchmarks for all seven categories of nurse engagement that the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) has identified for Magnet Recognition® (see chart on page 45). Such numbers demonstrate the power inherent in creating the infrastructure and support for nurses that the Magnet Recognition Program® demands.
The Hard Work Involved
To achieve those results, nurses at SVMH, in collaboration with health system leadership, have developed infrastructure and supports that inspire nurses to create and engage in professional growth activities aimed at achieving and sustaining professional excellence.
“We’ve implemented a systematic approach to how we review and action plan specifically with the nurse engagement results,” says Abigail Acosta, MSN, RN, CPAN, CAPA, chair of the Practice Council where all Unit Practice Council chairs meet monthly. “We choose at least one overall area of focus specific to nursing at the organization level, and each UPC chooses one or two areas of focus specific to their unit- or department-level results.” The organization-level goal is then integrated into the Nursing Strategic Plan, and the department-level goals are integrated into the UPC annual goals.
“Being part of the Magnet® journey has made us more aware of how the spectrum of care, rendered by different units and specialties, leads to the patient experience,” says Acosta. “My peers and I have implemented multiple initiatives that needed us to work with other units and offices, as well as multiple disciplines. We have learned to speak our truth and to openly discuss with stakeholders our concerns and recommendations.”
“From a leadership perspective, the Magnet® journey has made for a more collaborative work flow,” says Carla Knight, BSN, RN, Director of Perioperative Services.
All of this has led to resources and support for nursing development that include:
- Generous reimbursement and schedule support for nurses pursuing a BSN or higher degrees
- Free on-site specialty certification courses and generous bonuses for one or more specialty certifications
- Clinical ladder advancement
- Mentoring and Succession Planning programs
- Preceptor training and many other continuing education courses
- Structured transitions to practice programs to ensure success for new graduate nurses, newly hired nurses, and nurses transitioning to a new clinical practice setting
“I think it is essential to normalize the involvement of clinical staff in decisions affecting their practice…and remember to give them opportunities to be involved in processes or projects that they feel passionately about,” Acosta says. “The more people understand the reason for the journey, and we empower them with the skills and knowledge that can help them be successful in their role…the better we can sustain these improvements.”