A Guide to Choosing the Right Consultant for Your Magnet Journey

Mary Golway, MS, BSN, RN-BC


July 08, 2009

Is your facility a Magnet™ designated organization? Are you on the journey to Magnet excellence? Are you considering applying for Magnet recognition? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may be wondering how the new 2008 Magnet model affects you and your organization, and you may be looking for some guidance along your journey.

There are many reasons and motivation for healthcare administrators to embark on the journey to Magnet. The rewards are tangible and worth the investment, but beware; it is not an easy or quick journey! Healthcare organizations that have gone through the process have dedicated a great deal of effort, time, and resources to it. This usually requires that someone within nursing leadership be dedicated as Magnet coordinator or project director. A large amount of information is gathered, collated, and documented over a 2-year period.

This information is evidence that the institution embodies the criteria for Magnet and is submitted to the American Nurses Credentialing Center as part of the application process. In most cases, work teams and committees are organized to gather this data, to edit and collate, to inform staff about the process, and to prepare documents for submission. This takes a great deal of coordination and dedication at all levels of the organization.

The endeavor to become a Magnet-recognized organization must be made at an organization-wide level, and buy-in from all the stakeholders is crucial. To set a realistic timeline and to get the needed buy-in, healthcare facilities often benefit from an assessment by someone outside who has experience with the Magnet journey. Many times, a facility turns to a consultant who offers expertise in the Magnet journey. He or she is able to devote time and attention to Magnet readiness and the application process rather then being bogged down in the day-to-day operations of the organization. A consultant also provides a fresh look at the unique inner workings of an organization, those that demonstrate nursing excellence and those in need of improvement.

Choosing the Right Consultant and the Best Provider of Services

If you’ve made the decision to seek out consultative services, how exactly do you go about it? When hiring a Magnet consultant, how do you know what you are getting? There are 2 things to consider: the company that manages the consulting services and the individual consultant (or a consulting team).

First, it is wise to take a look at the type of company that is offering the consultation services. What type of reputation does this company have? Do other hospitals recommend the consultation services from this company? Is there a pool of consultants to choose from? Is this a freelance consultant who runs the business and also provides the services? Some consultants work for themselves and manage their own business as well as deliver the services. In this case, the consultant’s time must be divided between managing the business and providing services. Others work for agencies that offer various consulting services, and a variety of consultants. Consider whether the company simply assigns a consultant to a client organization, or whether the organization is actively involved in this decision. Many companies allow for flexibility in choosing an individual consultant, and may also give the option of having a team of consultants on the job. These factors should be taken into consideration when searching for the best company to offer consultation services.

Now let’s look at what considerations should be made when choosing an individual consultant. At a minimum, you should know the background, experience, and credentials of the consultant being considered. Also bear in mind how the prospective consultant will “fit” with your organization. Will your organization’s staff welcome an outsider to help guide them through the process? Has this consultant worked with hospitals of a similar size and organizational make-up? If your hospital has a nursing union or collective bargaining unit, what is the consultant’s experience with this? Will the consultant work with both the nursing staff and the administration team?

There are other strengths and experiences of the prospective consultant to keep in mind also, and it may be helpful to use the Magnet Model as a guide. In the new model, there are 5 model components which will guide the collection of evidence and documentation for consideration of Magnet recognition. They are: Transformational Leadership; Structural Empowerment; Exemplary Professional Practice; New Knowledge, Innovation and Improvements; and Empirical Quality Outcomes. The existing 14 Forces of Magnetism and their sources of evidence are clustered around these model components.

Taking this model into consideration, reflect on the opportunities for improvement within your facility and identify areas where guidance may be needed most (a gap analysis). Then seek out a consultant who has strengths in those areas. For example, if Transformational Leadership has been identified as an area of growth for your organization, you may want a consultant who demonstrates a certain amount of experience in this arena. Similarly, a consultant with a strong background in research or quality improvement may be a good fit for an institution that needs guidance in one of these areas.

When choosing a consultant or consultation company, also consider how they stay abreast in the knowledge of Magnet policies, criteria, document submission, etc. You may want to ask the following questions: How are your consultants oriented to the company and to consultation services? How are they updated and kept abreast of changes, and how often does this happen? Where do you get the most up-to-date information about Magnet, and how do you pass that on to your consultants and clients? Ask also about consultant experience and biographical data, and for references from other facilities that have used an individual or a team of consultants. It is recommended to survey several different consultation agencies and gather this information before making a decision.

The decision to seek Magnet recognition or re-designation is an important one that will affect a healthcare organization at all levels. If your organization is considering consultation services for help along this journey, there are many factors to consider in choosing the consultant and consultation company that best fits your needs.

For information about ANCC consultants, please visit: https://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet/ResourceCenters/Consulting.aspx

This content is provided by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for publication on the Medscape.com website.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) internationally renowned credentialing programs certify nurses in specialty practice areas, recognize healthcare organizations for nursing excellence through the Magnet Recognition® and Pathway to Excellence Programs, and accredit providers of continuing nursing education. In addition, ANCC offers an array of informational and educational services and products to support its core credentialing programs.

ANCC is passionate about helping nurses on their journey to nursing excellence. Visit ANCC's web site at www.nursecredentialing.org

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA).


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