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A 'Culture of Expectation' Nets Children's Mercy Its Fifth Magnet Recognition

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis and Son Hoang  
   January 08, 2021

The hospital's leadership helps create a culture of excellence by hearing, recognizing, and responding to nurses' needs.

Making sure nurses feel recognized, appreciated and heard—a culture that starts from the top—helped Children's Mercy in Kansas City recently earn its fifth Magnet Recognition®, which recognizes healthcare organizations that provide superior quality in nursing care.

Children's Mercy, first designated as a Magnet Recognition organization in 2003, is one of less than 8% of U.S. hospitals or healthcare organizations that are recognized as Magnet Recognition hospitals. The ANCC Magnet Recognition Program provides a path to nursing excellence, which benefits patients, as well as the organization.

HealthLeaders talked with Paula Blizzard, MSN, RN, NE-BC, senior director of Nursing-Excellence and Magnet Programs at Children’s Mercy and Jodi Coombs, RN, executive vice president and chief operating officer about the hospital’s culture of excellence. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: What has it been like to earn another Magnet Recognition? 

Blizzard: It's amazing. I would say this one's sweeter than the first one. Magnet just continues to raise the bar … so every time we achieve it, it's just a validation for the culture for nursing that we have here in the organization, and it's just such a great recognition for all of our staff and what we're able to do for our patients and families. 

Coombs: I would just add [that] I've been at Children's Mercy just about 13 months, and I've been a nurse for 25 years and one of the things that drew me to Children's Mercy was the Magnet designation because it really is a gold seal of nursing and organizational excellence. And so just to watch this process for the first time here at Children's Mercy, it was special and exciting to see all the work and what the nurses do within the organization.

HL: What actions did Children's Mercy take to earn this Magnet Recognition?

Blizzard: I go back to culture. And one of the things that we've done here in the organization is it's not about getting Magnet, it's about being Magnet. So, we have a culture of excellence, a culture of expectation of our nursing staff and their contributions to advancing healthcare for our patients and families and engaging in a professional development culture. And when we go to write our Magnet stories, we're not writing to the document; we're finding work that our staff are doing already to fit the expectations of Magnet.

HL: We’ve talked about fostering a culture of excellence. How have you done that?

Blizzard: I would say it's about engagement with the frontline, making sure that they feel recognized, appreciated, and heard. Our shared governance model is a strong indicator of that and helping them be a part of the decisions that we're making in the organization. Without our engagement of our frontline staff, we wouldn't be a Magnet organization because they're driving what we're doing as an organization to meet those expectations.

HL: What have you done to address nurse well-being and burnout, especially during a pandemic?

Coombs: As soon as the pandemic started, we started talking about the emotional and physical well-being of not just nursing but the entire staff. So, we did things like well-being rounds. We started asking questions. Our leaders were going out to the frontline and asking how people were doing, how they were feeling. And we started to tailor what we were doing to support that.

We had a respite room, where people would be able to come in, clear their mind hopefully for a few minutes and be able to just take a breath and … take care of themselves. Nursing started to bring in the physicians and partners and they started to work on roundtables where people could come talk about their feelings—they could talk about the stresses they have at home and the stresses they had at work.

HL: Are roundtables regular occurrences?

Coombs: We're doing them weekly—sometimes we've done them every other week—and they are leaders and sometimes there's frontline staff. It gives everybody a safe place to talk about how they're feeling. It also helps me as a senior leader in the organization because then I can start to work with people like Paula [Blizzard] and the rest of the team to put other things in place that will support them. For instance, we heard a lot about schools and homeschooling, and so, at Children's Mercy we set up a site where employees could drop their kids off for the day and get their homeschooling done with supportive staff, and still come to work.

HL: You mentioned the respite room. Is anything special needed for that? If other hospitals want to set up something similar, what do they need?

Coombs: One of our nursing leaders took this on, and we found a spare room. It was a family room, actually, that we couldn't use because we didn't have all the visitors that we're used to. But she just made a room that had a massage chair, and it might have water and snacks.

Blizzard: It was open for all of our staff as well. So, if they just needed to get away for five minutes, 15 minutes or whatever, they were able to go have this opportunity with drinks, snacks, magazines, and a TV and music in the room.

HL: How does staff well-being impact patient outcomes?

Blizzard: If nurses aren't taking care of themselves, they're not going to be at their best for patients and that is where errors happen. I think we've empowered staff to feel like they can take that five or 10 minutes to go take care of themselves, knowing that's going to have a long-term impact on what's going to happen for our patients.

HL: What advice do you have for other hospitals who want to have Magnet Recognition?

Blizzard: I would say it goes back to it being a culture change. It's not checking boxes. You can go through the Magnet manual, you can do the gap analysis and see and fix where your gaps might be, but if it's not a culture shift into what the Magnet culture is, you're not going to be successful or be able to sustain your Magnet status. The other piece of this that I think is key to Magnets and nursing designation is it's not just about nursing. It is about everyone in the organization embracing this culture. If nursing is doing this by themselves, we wouldn't be a Magnet organization.

Magnet™, Magnet Recognition Program®, and ANCC Magnet Recognition® are trademarks of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The products and services of HCPro are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the ANCC. The acronym “MRP” is not a trademark of HCPro or its parent company. 

“It's not checking boxes. You can go through the Magnet manual, you can do the gap analysis and see and fix where your gaps might be, but if it's not a culture shift into what the Magnet culture is, you're not going to be successful or be able to sustain your Magnet status.”


Weekly roundtable discussions provide senior leadership with direction to put resources in place to support employees' emotional health.

Respite rooms, allowing staff to step away for a short time to clear their mind and catch their breath, are simple and inexpensive to set up.

Allowing nurses to take a few minutes to take care of themselves results in better outcomes for patients.

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