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DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University Hospital has been named a Magnet Hospital by the American Nurses Association (ANA). Only 3.7 percent of the nation's hospitals have earned the designation, which is intended to recognize hospitals that provide the highest level of nursing care.

"Duke nurses provide exceptional care every day to hundreds of patients who pass through our health system," said William Fulkerson, M.D., chief executive officer of Duke University Hospital. "It is an honor Duke has been selected to join the elite cadre of nursing organizations that provide superior care."

Announcement of the award, made Sept. 15, culminates a three-year application and evaluation process that included interviews with more than 500 nurses, physicians, and staff, as well as examination of nearly 3,000 pages of documentation, said Mary Ann Fuchs, M.S.N., R.N., Duke's chief nursing and patient care services officer.

"This is the highest honor a U.S. hospital can receive for its nursing program, and it recognizes the innovative, first-rate care patients receive at Duke," said Victor J. Dzau, M.D., chancellor for health affairs and president and chief executive officer of the Duke University Health System. "Achieving magnet status is a testament to the knowledge and dedication Duke nurses bring to their profession."

Prior to and during the Duke site visit, examiners from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the credentialing arm of the ANA, reviewed documentation about patient-to-nurse ratios and evaluated the results of patient satisfaction surveys. In addition, they reviewed the number of nurses certified in specialty areas, such as critical care, and analyzed nurse-led initiatives intended to improve the hospital work environment, Fuchs said. In two such initiatives in Duke Hospital, nurses implemented a program to prevent pressure sores in patients and led the introduction of new lift equipment that decreased the number of work-related injuries among nurses. Representatives also analyzed the level of autonomy nurses have to make decisions and provide input to patient-care strategies, she added.

Magnet designation lasts four years, during which time the ANCC monitors the hospital closely to ensure it maintains high standards of care. Characteristically, Magnet hospitals often are able to attract and retain the best-trained nurses, and nurses who work in these institutions are allowed to spend more individual time with patients -- factors that can lead to shorter hospital stays, according to ANCC information about the Magnet Recognition Program.

"Being designated a Nursing Magnet Hospital is recognition for the teamwork of not only the nurses, but also our physicians and staff who care for our patients and families," said Fuchs. "The award isn't just for nursing; it's for the entire hospital."

Attaining Magnet status will allow Duke to maintain and grow its already strong base of registered and certified nurses, said Catherine L. Gilliss, D.N.Sc, R.N., F.A.A.N, vice chancellor for nursing affairs and dean of the Duke School of Nursing.

"We expect that recognition of the high quality environment in which nurses practice at Duke will attract even more well qualified nurses to positions at Duke," she said.

The ANCC lists four objectives for the program: to recognize hospitals that deliver excellent nursing care to patients, to promote quality in an environment that supports professional nursing practice, to allow for the dissemination of successful nursing practices among health care organizations and to promote positive patient outcomes.

Beginning in 2004, "U.S. News & World Report" magazine began including nursing magnet status as a factor in evaluating quality for its annual "America's Best Hospitals" rankings.

More information about nursing at Duke can be found at www.dukenursing.org, and additional information about the Magnet Recognition Program is located at http://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet.aspx.