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Nursing Management:
doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000426140.60785.0d
Feature: Specialty focus: Magnet(R) Excellence

Boots on the ground: The role of the Magnet® project director

Lavin, Patricia M. MSN, RN

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Author Information

Patricia M. Lavin is the director of Quality and Outcomes and the Magnet project coordinator at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York, N.Y.

The author has disclosed that she has no financial relationships related to this article.

The Magnet® project director (MPD) role is quickly being interwoven into the table of organization in nursing departments across the United States as many facilities journey toward Magnet recognition. This journey is often the impetus for nursing departments to galvanize efforts to build sustainable structures and processes for a culture of excellence.

The role of the MPD is to facilitate the journey to Magnet recognition, incorporating all levels of nursing. The MPD must work in collaboration with the CNO and the nursing leadership team to empower nurses at the bedside through the professional practice model. Developing key relationships with the nursing staff that are based on trust and understanding enables the MPD to act as a conduit for change in the organization.

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Negotiating the organization

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The MPD must first assess the readiness of the organization for the journey and work with nursing leadership and direct care nurses to promote sustainable outcomes. Developing a culture of excellence often involves change, and altering an organization isn't a simple process. Resistance should be expected.

Deeply rooted organizational culture needs to be addressed to accomplish change. The role of the MPD as a catalyst is imperative in the cultural development that must occur after the initial gap analysis in organizations journeying toward Magnet recognition. Cultural development encompasses the evolution of the professional practice environment, and a culture of excellence must be open and flexible based on evidence and quality outcomes. To accomplish cultural change, the MPD must be able to navigate complex social networks to provide facilitation, coordination, and guidance to the nursing staff and work with the nursing executive team to advocate for resources for direct care nurses.

Resistance to change can at times wear the MPD down. Perseverance is essential for the journey. The MPD must have a passion for adhering to Magnet principles and helping nurses make their work and professional environments better throughout the journey. The Magnet journey is about the day-to-day accomplishment of small steps that together over time are transformed into monumental leaps forward. The cultural change process begins with one nurse at a time and snowballs into a tipping point toward excellence.

The key to promoting innovation and change is to have support and advocacy from key stakeholders, such as senior hospital leadership, the executive nursing leadership team, and direct care nurses at the bedside. This buy-in must be present at the inception of the strategic vision for attaining Magnet recognition. Senior nursing leadership must understand that innovations arise from the people closest to the clinical questions. The nursing staff must be supported to take risks and tolerate failure. Nursing leaders must be willing to set expectations and goals for staff members and then allow them to be creative in solving bedside challenges. This leads to quality patient, nursing, and organizational outcomes. In addition to general support, the organization's governance structure also plays a significant role in facilitating the achievement of Magnet recognition.

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Motivating staff members

The skills of the MPD must include the ability to connect with and engage direct care nurses. Networking with frontline staff is a powerful tool for building the momentum toward reaching the vision of Magnet recognition. Each additional staff member who's engaged in the journey increases the power of the network and the ultimate success of the organization. With each new convert to transforming care at the bedside, there's an additional enrichment of purpose.

The establishment of a Magnet Champion Council is an essential ingredient for the success of the journey. This council comprises unit-based representatives who bring the Magnet message to the bedside. Creating a Magnet tool belt for the champions provides them with the resources to get the message to their nursing colleagues. These may include a Magnet bulletin board, website, or hotline where moments of excellence can be recognized.

One of the most effective tools to engage nurses in the process of the Magnet journey is the art of storytelling. Nurses can tell their own stories or have peers recognize them. Storytelling is a vehicle for nurses to be acknowledged for their daily contributions that help create a Magnet culture. The stories can be added to the repository of narratives for the sources of evidence to enrich the Magnet document. The avenues for motivating and highlighting the stories of nurses through a formal structure, such as Magnet moments, Magnet meals, or posting the narratives on the Magnet bulletin board, demonstrate how positive change is alive within the organization.

Another tool is education. Workshops that review the Magnet Model, including a scripted response for naysayers, are helpful for the Magnet champions. Naysayers are a reality in every organization; they can be loud and powerful voices and are found at any level of the nursing department. These nurses question whether the organization can achieve Magnet recognition and point out all the reasons why the journey won't succeed. Ready the Magnet champions to meet the naysayers face to face and answer their questions with a prepared educational tool on why the organization can meet the Magnet criteria.

The nurse manager is a key player in moving the organization toward a culture of excellence. Early in the journey, the MPD needs to partner with nurse managers to identify opportunities on the units where additional resources or support are needed to meet the unit-based outcomes that are required for Magnet recognition.

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Cultivating successful qualities

An essential quality that the MPD must have is a passion for facilitating initiatives in combination with the nursing leadership team, especially those defined by frontline staff members that improve their work and professional environments. This passion is translated into action as a cheerleader, a conduit for resource allocation, and the glue that holds select change initiatives together.

The MPD helps drive the initiative forward and within deadlines by employing project management skills, advocating for resources with senior leadership, and coordinating the initiative with nurses at all levels. Often, change initiatives are the ideal evidence that will be highlighted in the organization's Magnet application, so it's imperative that the MPD keeps the team on track as nurses juggle conflicting priorities at the operational and clinical levels.

An MPD must be able to inspire others by challenging the status quo. By asking nurses what keeps them up at night or has them saying “there must be a better way,” the MPD assists in the development of clinical or professional inquiry and connects staff members to the resources they need to have their questions turned into change projects. The role of the MPD is to open the door that the nurses walk through to change their practices.

The MPD interacts with nurses from the perspective of a peer rather than as a hierarchical superior. This relationship depends on trust and emotional intelligence. Part of the MPD role is to create an interpersonal rapport to encourage, support, and mentor the nurses in their spheres of influence to access the structures and processes in place to change practice. The MPD must be inspirational and collaborative. He or she must talk the talk and walk the walk, urging staff and management to work together to make Magnet recognition a reality. The MPD works behind the scenes to get the job done while keeping the direct care leaders in the limelight.

An MPD must not be afraid to rock the boat; he or she must be a strong agent of change and not a guardian of tradition. The MPD needs to have the strength to challenge those in authority to move forward even if it means shaking up old ways of doing things. A nurse who chooses to be an MPD must do well in situations that call for radical change and creative thinking. Change often arises out of chaos and ambiguity, which may be challenging to tolerate.

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Putting it all together

Strong organizational and writing skills help the MPD assist the CNO and the nursing leadership team to prepare the Magnet document. Often, the collection of evidence will occur over many years. The MPD should have a method of storing and accessing the various documents needed during the writing phase of the process. The day-to-day writing of the Magnet document can be done either solely by the MPD (who collects the stories from the nurses) or by a team of core nurses who've committed time away from their clinical and operational responsibilities to compile, organize, and write the narratives for the source of evidence. The approach to writing the final document is dependent on the organization's structure and the available resources for preparing a well-organized application that demonstrates the rigor of outcomes and evidence necessary to surpass the requirements.

It's imperative that an organization beginning or on the journey toward Magnet recognition has the right person in the role of MPD. Finding the right candidate can be achieved by recruiting from within the organization or hiring an external candidate who's master's-prepared with previous experience working on Magnet recognition. The MPD must fit with the leadership team and be able to have a close working relationship with the CNO.

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Focusing on the win

The MPD is indispensable for the journey toward Magnet recognition and achievement of the organization's culture of excellence. The MPD is responsible for the coordination, facilitation, and oversight of the Magnet journey with the CNO and senior nursing leadership team. One CNO referred to the role of the MPD as that of “a dog with a bone”—no matter what else is going on in the organization, the MPD concentrates on the components and outcomes needed for Magnet recognition. These include documentation, preparation, and submission while at the same time managing the timeline and completion of necessary projects. The road to Magnet recognition requires the organization to have one foot in today with the day-to-day operational issues and one foot in tomorrow to create the vision for becoming a leader in nursing excellence and improved patient outcomes.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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