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UTSW earns national honor for nursing excellence

By Heather Svokos

For just a few moments, you could feel the collective breath of hundreds of people being held in anticipation. The feeling was palpable across campus — inside the Lecture Hall of the William P. Clements University Hospital, and at Zale Lipshy University Hospital, the Simmons Cancer Center, and POB II. 

Members of patient care teams and administrators were all gathered to hear a special announcement that had been the focus of intense efforts for more than a year. In attendance at Clements University Hospital were Dr. John Warner, President and Chief Executive Officer of UT Southwestern Medical Center University Hospitals; Chief Nurse Executive Susan Hernandez, MBA, BSN, RN; and Director of Nursing Excellence/Magnet Victoria England, BSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC.

Susan Hernandez
Susan Hernandez waits for the phone call that would announce the good news.

All eyes were on Ms. Hernandez as she stood by a phone, waiting for a call to hear these magical words on the other end of the line. “It is my honor to officially notify you that the Commission on Magnet has unanimously voted to designate UT Southwestern Medical Center University Hospitals as a Magnet organization.”

Pictured center: Director of Nursing Excellence/Magnet Victoria England, BSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC poses for a selfie with fellow nurses.

After the call came with that official word from Donna Havens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Chair of the Commission for the Magnet Recognition Program®, the room erupted in a jubilant din of noisemakers and cheers, with beach balls bouncing around the audience.

Magnet is the highest honor awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC); it is recognized nationally as the gold standard of nursing excellence. Only about 7 percent of hospitals across the U.S. have earned Magnet status.

Nurses with beach balls
Nurses with glasses

Achieving Magnet designation is the final step in a rigorous process that begins with the submission of a comprehensive application that is reviewed by ANCC’s Commission on Magnet. After UT Southwestern’s application was approved, Magnet reviewers visited University Hospitals from May 23-26 and provided nurses, physicians, and other members of our patient care teams with an opportunity to showcase the expertise and the outstanding, compassionate care our nurses provide.

Magnet designation signifies that an organization’s nurses provide excellent, evidence-based patient care, advance their practice through research and professional development, and are recognized and respected by their colleagues for the important role they play on the patient care team.

During the call, Dr. Havens cited UT Southwestern with an impressive five “Exemplars” of processes worthy of being emulated by others on the journey to excellence.

Nurses with hats

Afterward, Ms. Hernandez addressed the crowd. “Thank you to everybody we have worked with on this journey,” she said. “This is you. This is your work. We did it together as a team. And what it shows is this journey is not about an individual. Because if it was, we couldn’t have pulled it off. Think back to everything you’ve done, and don’t let it stop. Keep going, and celebrate your work.”

Big Go Magnet sign

Ms. Hernandez then called on Dr. Warner to speak.

He thanked the group, and mentioned one person who had been at UT Southwestern throughout the Magnet journey: Magnet Director Victoria England.

“Her enthusiasm, her energy, her commitment has been there to drive this to the finish line, so we really want to thank you,” Dr. Warner said.

“I’m proud of us,” he continued, “but I’m more proud of what we’re about, which is taking care of patients and their families. When I took this job almost five years ago, we had a list of goals, and this was on it. But beyond this was to be the very best hospital in Dallas, which I think we are. We want to be the best in Texas, which I think we’re well on our way to being, and eventually want to be the best, period. And nursing is the cornerstone of that. This is an important achievement, and we’re going to have a lot of fun celebrating this, but let’s remember: This is the starting line, not the finish line. So, thank you to Susan, to Victoria, and to all of you. What a terrific day.”

Waving flag

After the event, Ms. Hernandez talked about what the moment felt like. “I was thrilled to receive the phone call from the ANCC, and to witness the joy in the room today,” she said. “Receiving the Magnet designation is a tremendous honor, and a remarkable source of pride to our nurses, and to the staff that supported us throughout the journey.

“But our journey doesn’t end today. It continues every day, as we strive to keep raising the bar for a higher standard of excellence in patient care.”

A visibly joyous Ms. England said she was both happy and relieved. “This organization has worked so hard to get to this point,” she said. “These nurses deserve it — we earned five Exemplars, which is a lot for where this organization started. We literally went from zero nurse-led research projects to 43 in less than five years. It shows me that we’re here. This organization has made that turn.”

Group of nurses

The Magnet designation will benefit UT Southwestern by fostering an environment that will continue to allow us to attract and retain the most talented nurses to care for our patients, and assure them that they are choosing a hospital with exceptional nursing care.

This is UT Southwestern’s first time to be designated a Magnet institution. Each Magnet organization must re-apply every four years to maintain its designation.

UT Southwestern is already thinking of the future, having made a commitment to helping our nurses achieve advanced degrees. By 2020, the goal is for 80 percent of UTSW’s bedside nurses to have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree or higher. Today, 70 percent of our nurses have a BSN and 234 nurses have advanced practice certifications or degrees.

For additional photos and video of the event, visit UTSW's Facebook page.

Nursing Leadership team
Rope line