Overlook achieves Magnet designation, highest national honor for nursing excellence

Hospital President Lieber praises staff: ‘This truly culminated more than a decade of work to create a professionally stellar, compassionate and empowered nursing team’

Atlantic Health System Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

By the time the experts from the American Nurses Credentialing Center were ready to come to Overlook Medical Center for a final check on whether Overlook was worthy of Magnet designation — the highest national honor for nursing excellence — they weren’t allowed in the door.

COVID-19 had hit — and restrictions were in place.

The situation, however, did not prevent Overlook from achieving the honor for the first time. If anything, Overlook officials feel it may have been the final check toward the award, which the Summit medical center earned earlier this fall.

Overlook officials get the call about their Magnet status. (Atlantic Health System)

MaryPat Sullivan, chief nursing and experience officer at Overlook Medical Center, said that, rather than pose additional challenges, the unprecedented event only served to further highlight how Overlook’s team comes together to provide excellent care.

“By the time our survey took place, the first five months of the pandemic had highlighted just how our nurses had integrated the Magnet qualities into the very fabric of Overlook’s culture — staff empowerment, shared decision-making, autonomy, professional development, nurse recruitment/retention and a higher standard of practice,” she said.

Overlook’s survey was scheduled for August. Since having surveyors on site was not possible, the ANCC began conducting virtual surveys. Three Magnet surveyors rounded on each and every unit with a nursing presence, interacting with nurses by way of iPad carts. Overlook’s Magnet champion escorts and ISS team members “escorted” the surveyors to each unit.

Magnet surveyors noted during the site visit that Overlook nurses spoke highly of the organization in terms of support for educational activities, professional certification and time to participate in governance activities, and that the words “family” and “team” were often used by nurses.

Additionally, Overlook’s physicians described the organization as “nurse-centric” in driving quality initiatives, and they were instrumental in the success of the organization’s highly recognized stroke program.

“It is very evident that Overlook has made a huge effort and contribution to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” ANCC surveyors noted in their report to Overlook.

The Magnet designation is the highest national honor for nursing excellence.

Overlook President Alan Lieber said it is a reflection of the nursing professionalism, teamwork and superiority in patient care at the hospital.

“This truly culminated more than a decade of work to create a professionally stellar, compassionate and empowered nursing team,” he said. “Our nurses have demonstrated these qualities as we faced the biggest crisis in health care, and there was no doubt that our culture of excellence was on display during Magnet’s tour of Overlook. This recognition reflects our nurses’ commitment to providing exceptional care to our patients and the community.”

With this credential, Overlook is one of only 541 hospitals in the country that have earned this recognition, representing less than 9% of hospitals in the U.S. It is third member of the Atlantic Health System to be honored (Morristown and Chilton also have been recognized) and 32nd in the state. (Awards are given annually and have the potentially to be renewed every 4-5 years).

Lieber said the Magnet designation will help in many ways, since it distinguishes organizations that meet rigorous standards for nursing excellence.

Magnet recognition is the gold standard for nursing excellence and is often a consideration among patients and the public when evaluating health care facilities. U.S. News & World Report’s annual showcase of “America’s Best Hospitals” includes Magnet recognition in its ranking criteria for quality of inpatient care.

The Magnet designation marks another major national achievement for Overlook, which also this year received for the first time the Healthgrades 2020 America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award.

Deb Toresco, Overlook’s Magnet program manager, who led the efforts to achieve the designation, said the honor is a nice achievement in what obviously has been a difficult year.

“In truth, it was the perfect ending to our journey to Magnet — a time to show how nurses work together as a team and how all of Overlook supports and encourages stellar teamwork with nursing,” she said.