University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics retains Magnet status for nursing

Iowa boasts six Magnet facilities, showing nursing excellence

The Pappajohn Pavilion at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is shown in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Pappajohn Pavilion at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is shown in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Wednesday — for the third time — was redesignated with Magnet Program Recognition, a top international honor for excellence in nursing practice.

The university is one of 477 Magnet facilities in the world — although most are in the United States, with just eight in other countries, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which runs the program. The state of Iowa boasts five Magnet facilities in addition to UIHC — including UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids and Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Wednesday’s UIHC re-designation makes it first in the state to do so three times — after becoming the state’s first Magnet facility in 2004 and then earning re-designation in 2008 and 2013. Mercy Medical Center’s Dubuque and Dyersville campuses also earned the elite status at a later date in 2004, and three other Iowa facilities have been redesignated twice.

“Less than 10 percent of hospitals in the U.S. have earned Magnet status,” according to a UIHC news release. “And far fewer have received it this many consecutive times.”

The Magnet program seeks to highlight nursing programs around the world that are successfully aligning nursing strategic goals with improved patient outcomes. It also aims to provide a “road map to nursing excellence.”

“To nurses, Magnet recognition means education and development through every career stage, which leads to greater autonomy at the bedside,” according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center. “To patients, it means the very best care, delivered by nurses who are supported to be the very best that they can be.”

UI has retained the status even as it — like many other hospitals across the country — has grappled with a nursing shortage. Between the 2014 and 2017 budget years, the university’s use of “traveling nurses” to fill its staffing gaps skyrocketed from the full-time equivalent of nine to 216, according to a 2017 report by The Gazette.


Because traveling nurses are paid at a premium — with many earning a starting hourly rate of $59, which could amount to more than $26 million a year if 216 work the standard 2,080 hours a year — the university has been working to reduce its reliance on traveling nurses.

And last week, during a presentation to the Board of Regents, UI hospital executives reported exceeding its goal of reducing traveling nurses by 149 positions — with a reduction of 203 through June. Those positions have been filled with UIHC staff, according to officials, who didn’t provided updated total nurse numbers Wednesday.

The university also has experienced change — and, at times, challenges — atop its nursing enterprise of late, recently hiring internal candidate Cindy Dawson as chief nursing executive after a national search stretched on for nearly two years. Dawson had been serving as interim chief nursing office since July 2016.

“The Magnet designation is the pinnacle of achievement in nursing,” Dawson said Wednesday in a news release. “To earn this recognition four times is a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to the high-quality care that our nurses provide to our patients.”

The Magnet designation comes after a “rigorous review application and on-site evaluation process of all aspects of its nursing services,” the release said.

“Iowans can be proud that our nurses are being recognized for being among the leaders of our profession and providing patient care that ranks among the best available anywhere around the globe,” Dawson said.

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