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NorthBay Healthcare Earns Magnet Designation

Posted: December 18, 2014

Christmas came early for NorthBay Healthcare nurses who have spent the last five years pursuing the highest level of recognition a hospital can receive for quality nursing care.

Leaders of the local nonprofit hospital system learned Thursday (Dec. 18) that NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville have earned the coveted "Magnet" designation.

Dozens of nurses and administrators listened on speaker phones in conference rooms at the two hospitals Thursday morning as officials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Maryland made the announcement.

Only 6 percent of hospitals in the United States have earned Magnet status after exhibiting exemplary patient care, positive clinical outcomes and innovation in professional nursing practices.

NorthBay Healthcare's hospitals join Stanford Hospital, UC San Francisco Medical Center, UC Davis Medical Center and John Muir Medical Center as Magnet hospitals in Northern California. Others nationwide include the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, N.Y., Cleveland Clinic and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. 

"The Magnet Recognition Program is the ultimate benchmark for patients and their families to measure the quality of care they can expect at a hospital," explained an exuberant Kathy Richerson, vice president and chief nursing officer. "It's called 'Magnet' because we are able to attract and retain top-flight professional nurses."

She said her nurses have come a long way in five years since beginning what she called "the journey" to Magnet designation. "Today, our passion for patient care and the nursing profession was validated," Richerson said.

Tears of joy flowed among scores of nurses who gathered Thursday and learned the outcome. Deborah Zimmerman, chair of the Magnet Recognition Commission and chief nursing officer of Virginia Commonwealth Medical Center, heaped praise on them. 

"You are an incredible organization. Even among Magnet organizations you are extraordinary," she said noting that their community service is uncommon among hospitals nationwide. "We saw it. There is no community event where there is no NorthBay nurses."

In April, nursing leaders submitted a 14-inch-thick document for Magnet designation. It chronicled improvement and innovation in nursing practices, as well as higher scores on an annual nursing satisfaction survey.

To earn the distinction, NorthBay also improved its patient satisfaction ratings and increased the percentage of nurses with national certifications and advanced nursing degrees. NorthBay nurses participated in fellowships and evidence-based projects to improve what they do for patients.

The foundation for the Magnet journey, according to Richerson, was the dawn of shared governance, bringing nurses into decision-making at the departmental and divisional levels. "We created a more collaborative environment, not just within nursing, but with other disciplines in the hospital."

Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, lauded the recognition as a system-wide achievement. "Whether it is someone in the pharmacy or laboratory, or a clerk on the unit or a member of our environmental services team, each person contributes to the magnetism of our organization," she said.

Once the 16-volume document was submitted, the credentialing agency spent three months poring over the documentation. Three surveyors then visited both hospitals for a three-day, on-site validation visit. The rigorous review was to ensure 88 standards for excellence were met.

Chris Stevenson, NorthBay's Magnet program director, said the journey has been enlightening and rewarding. "It affirms the value of the work our nurses do every day, caring for members of the community who entrust us with their healthcare needs," she said. "I'm very proud of each member of our NorthBay team."

According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, consumers rely on Magnet designation as the ultimate credential for high quality nursing. Magnet is the leading source of successful nursing practices and strategies worldwide.

NorthBay nurses celebrate after receiving Magnet designation