Exploring the Magnet Metaphor 

Exploring the Magnet Metaphor 

As we mark the annual celebration and recognition of all that the Magnet model represents in healthcare here in the U.S. and around the world, it’s timely to pause to consider just what magnetism is and what makes this metaphor so apt in our 21st-century world.

The Science of Magnetism

Children are easily fascinated when playing with magnets. The developing brain of a child enthusiastically and curiously examines how different metals repel and attract one another, and no matter how magical it may seem, the forces in question are deeply based on science and physics.

Very simply put, electrons, neutrons, and other subatomic particles each carry either a positive or negative electrical charge, and their constant motion contributes to the creation of magnetic fields.

While the actual scientific force of magnetism cannot be held responsible for nurses being drawn to work at healthcare facilities holding the Magnet designation (just as Albert Einstein observed that gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love), there is undoubtedly a type of gravitational pull that causes certain nurses to prioritize working at Magnet facilities.

The science of magnetism is a known fact among physicists, scientists, and laypeople who can be bothered to understand how such a phenomenon works. Yet, the metaphor of magnetism in relation to hospitals and healthcare workplaces is another kind of phenomenon entirely.

The Power of Magnetism

If the physical force of magnetism is caused by the movement of positively or negatively charged subatomic particles, then it must figure that there are aspects of the Magnet model that serve as charged particles within a healthcare workplace that attracts talented and forward-looking nurses.

To explore our metaphor further, we can examine the Commission on Magnet’s new vision , which is meant to communicate the aspects of Magnet organizations that are seen as holding the most potential for changing patient outcomes and the face of healthcare in profound ways.

The Commission’s vision includes:

  • The forces of transformational leadership
  • Structural empowerment
  • Exemplary professional practice
  • New knowledge, innovation, and improvement.
  • Empirical quality result.

Let’s briefly examine each.

Transformational leadership: This model component wants leaders “no longer just to solve problems, fix broken systems, and empower staff, but to actually transform the organizations to meet the future.”

Most nurses want to be led by visionary leaders who have everyone’s best interests in mind, not to mention leaders who can create new approaches to processes that are broken or past their prime. It’s been said many times that employees most often quit jobs and leave organizations because of leadership issues. Thus, nurse retention (organizational magnetism) must begin with inspired leadership.

Structural empowerment: This component provides “an innovative environment where strong professional practice flourishes and where the mission, vision, and values come to life to achieve the outcomes believed to be important for the organization.” Strategic plans, policies, and other aspects of the organization must magnetize and empower nurses and other staff to achieve their best.

Exemplary professional practice: Most nurses want this for themselves, focusing on evidence-based practice, high-level communication skills, multidisciplinary collaboration, and ongoing development of skills and knowledge. Magnetic indeed.

New knowledge, innovation, and improvements: The Commission states, “Our current systems and practices need to be redesigned and redefined if we are to be successful in the future. This Component includes new models of care, application of existing evidence, new evidence, and visible contributions to the science of nursing.” We all know that nursing and healthcare cannot stand still and rest on yesterday’s accomplishments and knowledge. If we are not moving forward, stagnation results and our patients and communities deserve much more. We must magnetize forward movement and forward thinking.

Empirical quality results: Quantitative and qualitative measures are essential when assessing outcomes, and since nursing is a science-based discipline, empirical evidence is crucial. Measuring and sharing the outcomes of our actions is a path to recording and categorizing our accomplishments and assessing the practices that got us there.

These and other aspects of the Magnet model serve as metaphorical forces of magnetism that draw certain nurses to organizations that practice in such a manner. These charged particles of practice, innovation, and empowerment will attract nurses interested in practicing at the top of their license while working for institutions that value innovation, creative thinking, and exemplary professionalism.

Magnifying the Good

The Magnet model is an example of a positively charged force that draws to it those naturally attracted to that force. The pillars of the Magnet model serve as particles that draw to them nurses of like mind, like a magnet that causes certain substances to cling to it.

Substandard workplaces that undervalue nurses and treat them like cannon fodder repel nurses, pushing them away when they can no longer tolerate a workplace opposite of what the Magnet model represents. Some healthcare workplaces need to do more to ensure they achieve the best possible patient outcomes with happy, satisfied, and highly valued staff. These institutions shoot for the lowest common denominator; the results speak for themselves.

Let’s focus on magnetizing and empowering that which makes nursing and healthcare shine. And for those drawn to the Magnet model, there’s much to learn along this growth, innovation, and positivity continuum.

Are you looking for your next career opportunity at a Magnet hospital? Check out our Magnet showcase. Then, your next job can be waiting for you!

We’ll be at the 2023 ANCC National Magnet Conference® October 12-14 at the at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. Stop by booth #918. We look forward to seeing you there!