Patient Care

Strong Memorial Hospital Earns Fifth Magnet Accreditation for Nursing Excellence

Apr. 26, 2024
Fewer than 50 U.S. Hospitals are Five-Time Honorees
Strong Memorial Hospital receives Magnet designation for nursing

Strong Memorial Hospital has joined an elite – and very small – group of U.S. hospitals by earning its fifth Magnet designation for nursing excellence.

Of the more than 6,000 hospitals in the nation, only 9.7 percent have received one Magnet designation, and less than 1 percent – roughly 50 hospitals nationwide – have earned five.

Strong Memorial was the first western New York hospital to earn Magnet honors in 2004; UR Medicine affiliates Highland Hospital and FF Thompson Hospital are also Magnet hospitals.

Achieving Magnet is about much more than recognition: Magnet hospitals have higher percentages of satisfied nurses, lower nurse turnover and vacancy, improved clinical outcomes, and improved patient satisfaction.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers the Magnet Recognition Program®, which recognizes health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence, and innovations in professional nursing practice.

“Earning a fifth consecutive Magnet certification is wonderful recognition for Strong Memorial Hospital nurses and their enduring commitment to excellent patient care," said Kathy Parrinello, chief operating officer and executive vice president for URMC.

“Even more impressive, our nurses achieved the highest national standards for their performance during the COVID pandemic, when our hospital had very high patient volumes and was implementing emergency care protocols for a new virus,” she added. “Nursing is central to our hospital’s ability to consistently deliver exceptional, high-level patient care for people throughout our region. We’re extremely proud of our nurses for achieving this milestone and grateful for the service they deliver to our community every day.”

In addition to delivering exceptional patient care during the pandemic, ANCC examiners praised Strong Memorial Nursing for its progress in building a culture founded on shared governance, and for expanding research to deliver new and more effective patient care protocols.

The emphasis on shared governance and research were strategic initiatives launched under the leadership of Karen Keady, vice president and chief nurse executive for URMC, who recognized nurses for their dedication, leadership, and teamwork.

“I’m very proud of our nurses for their sustained commitment to the highest level of achievement in nursing,” Keady said. “Their pursuit of excellence has not only earned the prestigious fifth Magnet designation, but has also set a benchmark for nursing excellence in medical centers nationwide.”

During COVID, many hospital nursing organizations were stepping away from shared governance to focus on pandemic emergency protocols; Magnet examiners praised Keady for stepping in and doubling efforts around it. Key to the program’s success was establishing funding and dedicated staff time for nurses so they could fully participate in leadership responsibilities.

The work on shared governance is ongoing, but already, there are measures of progress. In 2023, Keady worked with the hospital’s Professional Nursing Council to operationalize a new clinical ladder level, Senior Level II, which recognizes leadership of frontline nurses. Since inception, 877 nurses have applied and been promoted to this level.

Magnet certification is a four-year term, but pursuing the high standards of the certification is a year-round task, Keady noted.

“I want to thank Stephanie Von Bacho, who has been Magnet program director since 2002, and the Magnet ambassadors and nurses who escorted appraisers during the site visit. Their expertise and enthusiasm undoubtedly made a very positive impression on examiners," said Keady. "Mary Carey and Brandon Qualls have built an innovative model for supporting nurses’ research efforts that rightly impressed the examiners. Most of all, I want to recognize all Strong Memorial nurses for contributing to a culture that is the very definition of Meliora – ever better.”

Part of “ever better” is research to explore new and better ways to deliver patient care. Magnet examiners credited Carey and Qualls for inspiring research from “nursing’s front line” by providing crucial support in all things research – ensuring IRB approvals, assisting publication searches, preparing posters for presentations, and much more.

Nurses’ participation in research has “bloomed,” examiners noted: “Since 2019, 62 research studies have been approved by the IRB. Projects that have been completed and/or disseminated via internal forums have resulted in 61 publications, of which over 60 percent have URMC nurses as first authors.”

“Sustaining Magnet’s standard of excellence for two decades is a significant achievement for Strong Memorial,” said Von Bacho, who is senior director of Learning and Development for URMC, as well as leader of the Magnet program. She has gained a unique perspective as an ANCC Magnet appraiser since 2014: “I have the opportunity to visit some of the nation’s top hospitals, and URMC/Strong is among the very best when it comes to the embodiment or enculturation of the Magnet model for nursing.”

In the report they filed after their site visit to Strong Memorial and their interviews with many of the hospital’s nurses, physicians, and leaders, Magnet examiners noted Strong Memorial’s longstanding commitment to nursing excellence and its ties to Magnet recognition’s inception:

“The Division of Nursing at SMH represents over 5,000 nurses. SMH nurses are respected, proud, scholarly, and committed to patient outcomes. The tenure of nursing leadership in the room at times consisted of over 225 years of service. They carry a sense of responsibility to be leaders in Magnet principles, not just compliant. The loyalty to their region and community was echoed by community stakeholders. Nursing was repeatedly referred to as the ‘heart and soul of this organization.’ The profound impact of nurses on patient care was clear and all took great pride in the fact that Dr. Margaret D. Sovie was a URMC nurse and contributor to the original Magnet study. Dr. Sovie remains foremost in their minds as SMH nurses carry forward a legacy of excellence.”