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Meritus Medical Center Earns Magnet Designation for High Quality Nursing

Confetti flew through the air as cheers rang out Wednesday inside a packed conference room at Robinwood Professional Center.

Nurses, physicians and hospital leaders celebrated after learning Meritus Medical Center received Magnet Recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or ANCC.

The honor — recognizing the highest level of professional nursing and patient care — makes the hospital east of Hagerstown the only one in Western Maryland and the Tri-State region recognized as a Magnet facility.

Just 8% of hospitals nationwide have earned the distinction. Meritus joins six others in Maryland, including Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center.

“This is a culmination of a long journey which has been led by our nurses, but we’ve had other partners in the hospital that have been key to our journey of nursing excellence with a goal of improving patient care,” Meritus Health President and interim CEO Carolyn Simonsen said. “That’s really what this is all about.”

Before about 250 people, Simonsen was joined by Chief Nursing Officer Melanie Heuston and Sarah Harne-Britner, director of professional practice and Magnet, as they received the notification over a conference call from Jeanette Ives Erickson, chairwoman of the ANCC’s Commission on Magnet Recognition.

“It’s fabulous applause and happiness that makes me love doing this work,” Erickson said, reacting to the eruption of cheers, whistling and mini confetti cannon blasts after she made the announcement.

In receiving the honor, a first for Meritus, the hospital also was recognized for exemplary performance in its care for stroke patients and for transformational leadership in improving workplace safety, including enhanced security measures.

“Congratulations,” Erickson said. “We’re very proud of you.”

According to the ANCC, Magnet Recognition establishes Meritus “as an organization that embraces high standards of patient care and a commitment to nurture the talents of dedicated nurses throughout their careers with continuing education and development,” Meritus officials said in a news release.

Heuston said it’s gratifying for the hospital and its staff to be recognized nationally by an organization that credentials hospitals that exemplify best practices in medical care.

“Meritus meets them and, in some cases, exceeds them,” she said. “When I came here two years ago, I saw this as a vision that could happen. So for me, it’s seeing the vision come to life.”

Nursing leadership submitted a 600-page document, including attachments, to the commission last fall. It was reviewed by three independent evaluators, who visited the site in February.

During their three days on the campus off Robinwood Drive, the evaluators met more than 800 people, talking with members of dozens of hospital groups and nursing units, as well as other hospital departments and community members.

Heuston said a Magnet designation “does not mean you’re a perfect hospital,” but it means “you’re striving for excellence.”

“You have excellence in your metrics for quality care for nursing and this is the beginning of our journey because we will always want to be better,” she said. “I think this is good for our community as well. ... We’re improving the care for the lives of the people in our community and I think Meritus has shown that we are dedicated to this community.”

Dr. Allen Ditto, a recently retired family-practice doctor with more than three decades serving the community, congratulated Meritus on the honor, especially since he’s “going to be more of a consumer now rather than a provider.”

Ditto said it will have a “snowball effect” in attracting other talented professionals who want to work for a Magnet hospital.