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Science in Action
Study Results

Choosing the Right Hospital Could Be A Lifesaver

Choosing the right hospital for surgery has the potential to be a lifesaver. New research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has found that the odds of dying within 30 days of admission to a hospital for common surgeries was 14% lower in hospitals with the magnet-designation compared to hospitals without it. The magnet designation signifies the hospital has proven its ability to attract and retain nurses.


In addition, researchers found that the odds of dying after experiencing a complication after a common surgery within 30 days of admission was 12% lower in hospitals with the magnet-designation compared to hospitals without it. The study, published in today’s edition of Medical Care, examined the hospital records of 600,000 patients in four states between 2006 and 2007 and included vascular, gastrointestinal, general, and orthopedic surgeries. 
“We find over and over again that nurses save lives. These better outcomes can be attributed in large part, to investments in highly qualified and educated nurses, and practice environments supportive of high-quality nursing care,” said lead researcher Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, RN, FAAN. Magnet-designated hospitals are accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
However, the researchers found in their original investigation that magnet hospitals also exhibit the characteristics of the nation’s top corporations. “The residual association between magnet recognition and outcomes likely signifies a complex organizational condition such as the institution’s commitment to excellence and willingness to undertake organizational innovation,” said McHugh, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. “There is more going on than just more nurses in Magnet hospitals, the nurses are organized, trained, and supported by management to provide care differently.”
The original research on the qualities of magnet hospitals was also conducted at Penn Nursing and the number of magnet hospitals has grown over the ensuing two decades to nearly 400, or 8 percent of all hospitals in the U.S.
The technical requirements of magnet hospitals mean that magnet hospitals have “significantly better work environments (for nurses) and higher proportions of nurses with bachelor’s degrees and specialty certification. These nursing factors explained much of the Magnet hospital effect on patient outcomes,” wrote McHugh.
Hospitals are evaluated for evidence of achieving goals in five areas: transformational leadership; structural empowerment; exemplary professional practice; new knowledge, innovations, and improvements; and empirical outcomes.
The study was supported by the American Nurses Foundation, National Institute of Nursing Research (R01-NR-004513, P30-NR-005043, T32-NR007104), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program.
Patients considering surgery can find out whether their hospital has achieved the Magnet credential by looking at US News & World Report Best Hospitals ranking and the Leapfrog Group’s hospital ratings or on the hospital’s own website.