Nashua hospital honored for its ‘magnetism’

The Magnet Recognition nursing award — a national seal of approval designating nursing excellence – has been awarded to St. Joseph Hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a part of the American Nurses Association.

The Nashua hospital is the first community hospital — and the second overall — to earn the recognition. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon also has been recognized.

Some 145 hospitals nationwide currently have the designation. The name of the award, Magnet Recognition, refers to the recipient’s ability to attract and retain quality professional nurses — drawing them with the power of a magnet. Recipients are judged on a number of standards and characteristics considered the gold standard in nursing care.

The award is the culmination of a three-year process that involved input from hundreds of nurses at St. Joseph and a three-day visit in January by a survey committee to assess nursing quality.

Pam Duchene, vice president for patient care services at St. Joseph and a registered nurse, said the award reflects positively on the hospital’s nursing staff during a time of nurse shortages, concerns about patient safety and medical errors in hospitals. Duchene said the hospital demonstrated “standards and characteristics (including) cultural diversity and quality of care for best patient outcomes.”

She said the turnover rate for nurses at the hospital stands at 6
percent, the vacancy rate is 2 percent, and the hospital employs 306 nurses, most on a part-time basis. It does not use nurses from outside agencies.

Duchene said the credential is a draw for nurses and physicians looking for employment. But it also assures patients that they will receive excellent care.

“It’s important recognition because it says they’re being proactive in solving issues in the hospital and have high standards of nursing practice,” said Karen Baranowski, president and CEO of Home Health and Hospice Care in Nashua and former chair of the department of nursing and health sciences at Rivier College.

“It speaks a lot about the quality of nurses and the care that they give to patients,” said Andrea Alley, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “In the context of nurse shortages, patient safety and quality issues, it certainly indicates that St. Joe’s has risen above the challenges that might face any hospital. It’s a huge honor.”

Nashua’s other hospital, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, recently filed a formal Magnet Recognition application after more than a year of preparation.

“It’s a positive thing, and we look forward to achieving our designation in the future,” said Colette Tilton, an advanced registered nurse practitioner who serves as vice president of patient care services at the medical center. “It takes a lot of work to achieve the designation, which is why some hospitals haven’t gone after it.”

“It enhances the nurse profession and ultimately patient care,” Tilton said. “It’s certainly the journey we’re all about — enhancing the quality of care and patient services.”

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