BENNINGTON >> In 2002, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) became the state's first hospital to earn Magnet Recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.

In 2006 and 2010, the hospital was redesignated as a Magnet organization. And in December 2015, SVMC received its fourth designation. This is an extraordinary achievement that has been granted to only 31 hospitals in the world.

Below, are some common questions about Magnet and their answers:

What is the Magnet Recognition Program?

The Magnet Recognition Program was developed by the ANCC to recognize health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. The program also provides a vehicle for disseminating successful nursing practices and strategies. The ANCC has awarded Magnet designation to fewer than 7 percent of all registered U.S. hospitals.

Why is maintaining SVMC's Magnet status important?

Magnet recognition is not an award. You don't "win it;" you earn it. It's the highest stamp of approval a health care organization can receive from a nonregulatory agency. Research demonstrates that Magnet hospitals have better patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, and nursing satisfaction, as well as lower nurse turnover. Magnet-hospital designation and redesignation is now considered the "gold standard" for nursing practice in all settings, and by extension, the highest standards of quality and safety in patient care.


What does the redesignation process involve?

Altogether, the process takes four years. Each redesignation begins as soon as the previous one is received. SVMC nurses plan, execute, and evaluate many projects individually and in groups. The projects are focused on areas that have a proven relationship with improved patient care. The last year of preparation is focused on gathering evidence that supports the hospital's claim to Magnet status. SVMC's document of evidence for most recent redesignation was 1,250 pages.

After a thorough assessment by a team of four ANCC appraisers, the SVMC advanced to a site visit. From November 9 - 11, the same team of appraisers visited SVMC to verify, clarify, and amplify the evidence they reviewed in the document. The site visit provided appraisers with an opportunity to speak directly to nursing staff, patients, and their families, as well as all other SVMC staff and community members.

On Tuesday, December 15, we received the news that we had again achieved Magnet recognition. This is a proud moment for us. We are delighted with the work our teams have done to maintain this level of excellence and impressed with their constant drive toward improvement.

We are delighted even more with what Magnet recognition means for patients. Since our last designation, SVMC nurses developed three programs that have resulted in particularly good outcomes for patients. Magnet surveyors identified these programs as exemplary, meaning they are worthy of emulation by other health systems working to solve similar challenges.

• Transitional Care Nursing, which drastically reduces hospital readmission rates;

• Safe Arms, a program that keeps infants withdrawing from opiates from being transferred to hospitals further from their families; and

• the Community Care Team, which brings leaders from the most often-used services together to collaborate on care for patients with complex needs.

Patients may not know all of the details related to these programs or to being a Magnet Center for Nursing Excellence, but they experience the care and skill our nurses exhibit. The program sets forth a tremendous challenge. We continue to accept it for all the benefits to patients, for nurses' satisfaction, and for the culture of excellence it inspires at SVMC.

Carol Conroy, DNP, is SVMC's chief nursing officer. She may be contacted at or 802- 447-5004. "Health Matters" is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.