By Callie Clark ~ Southeast Missourian
Early Thursday morning, a crowd of nurses gathered around a telephone at Southeast Missouri Hospital awaiting confirmation of their hard work and extra efforts.
At 8:30 a.m., the phone rang and Southeast became the 126th hospital in the United States and the fourth in Missouri to receive the Magnet Nursing Services Recognition award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
"It was truly an awesome moment in the history of Southeast Missouri Hospital," Karen Hendrickson, vice president and chief nursing officer, said at a news conference two hours later.
The Magnet award, which is granted in conjunction with the American Nurses Association, is considered the nation's highest honor for hospital nursing care. To attain the designation, a hospital must receive an "excellent" rating in 14 standards, which include assessment, diagnosis, quality of care, education, ethics and collaboration.
Hendrickson said Southeast is the first hospital in Missouri outside a metropolitan area to receive the award. Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics and St. Joseph Health Center in Kansas City and Barnes Jewish Christian Hospital in St. Louis are the only other Magnet hospitals in the state. Only 2 percent of the nation's 6,000 hospitals have received the designation.
The quest for the award began in early 2003. Documentation of Southeast's compliance with the 14 standards took more than 2,800 pages. The hospital received the necessary "excellent" rating in each area.
In July, a representative of the Nurses Credentialing Center visited the hospital and interviewed 350 people, including nurses, hospital administrators, board of trustees members and community leaders. It took 18 months for Southeast to receive the award that has taken other hospitals as long as 12 years to attain.
"All we had to do was document what we already do. We didn't have to get the book and comply with what the book said to do," said James Wente, president and CEO of Southeast.
The award is valid for four years, at which time Southeast must reapply. Hendrickson commented on the nation's shortage of nurses, which is expected to grow to 500,000 in the next four years. The current nursing staff has an average of 10 years employment at Southeast, and the vacancy rate of nurses there is less than 2 percent, compared to 10 percent nationwide and around 8 percent statewide.
"Magnet hospitals are evidence that creating a professional nursing practice environment is the solution to the flight of nurses from hospital practice," Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said the award is not only an honor for nurses, but to all hospital staff.
"This means patients and families have the ultimate benchmark to measure the quality of care they can expect to receive," she said. "Earning the Magnet status doesn't change who we are. It reinforces the core values by which we all do our jobs every day."
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