Lead author Matthew D. McHugh of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia and colleagues compared patient outcomes at magnet hospitals versus non-magnet hospitals in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey in 2006-07.
Magnet hospitals are recognized for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. The Magnet Recognition Program is a voluntary recognition/certification program administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an arm of the American Nurses Association.
The research team linked patient, nurse and hospital data on 56 magnet hospitals and 508 non-magnet hospitals. Magnet hospitals had significantly better work environments and higher proportions of nurses with bachelor's degrees and specialty certification, the researchers said.
The study, scheduled to be published in the May issue of Medical Care, found key patient outcomes were also better at magnet hospitals. The study found the analysis of more than 600,000 surgical patients, mortality rates were 20 percent lower at magnet hospitals, after accounting for clinical factors.
However, the mortality advantage of magnet hospitals also seems related to their membership in a network of institutions where innovation is encouraged through the ongoing process of magnet redesignation.
"This is the first study to suggest that the magnet application process itself is an intervention that promotes better quality of care," McHugh added. "Magnet hospitals have lower mortality because of investments in nursing."