Riley seeks elite five-time Magnet status for nursing excellence




“It really is magical to see nurses come together and feel celebrated and recognized for the work they do.”

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

If you want to see something joyful, take a look at a group of nursing professionals celebrating after finishing a rigorous recertification process and knowing that they nailed it.

That’s what Riley Children’s Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mara Nitu saw when she looked around the room last week at the team who helped Riley shine during site visits for Magnet designation.

“This is magical,” she said.

Laura Koke, Riley’s clinical program manager for nursing practice, couldn’t agree more.

“It really is magical to see nurses come together and feel celebrated and recognized for the work they do. I want to shout it from the rooftop.”

Riley is already among an elite group of hospitals (less than 7%) around the nation to achieve Magnet status, a national designation recognizing excellence in nursing and clinical care. And it has achieved that seal of approval four times, being reviewed and recognized every four to five years since 2006.

Becoming a five-time Magnet hospital is an honor shared by less than 1% of hospitals (including the IU Health Adult Academic Health Center), according to Koke. And Riley is poised to achieve that distinction, following virtual site visits by appraisers who evaluated nearly every unit at Riley’s Downtown campus, as well as Riley units at IU North.

“They wanted to talk to our clinical nurses to find out their lived experience at Riley,” Koke said.

The theme for the site visits was “shining a light on nursing excellence,” and as expected, she said, “Our nurses really shined. It was really special to be a part of.”

For 7 West nurse Riley Okines, serving as one of 11 nurse ambassadors during the verification process was eye-opening and motivating.

“The way I view the world in general, but specifically nursing, is how can we do this better,” she said.

As a new grad and a nurse at Riley for just under a year, she wasted no time getting involved. The Zionsville native had written a senior research paper on Magnet hospitals, so she knew Riley was top-tier and that it was a place she wanted to be.

But there was something else.

Okines’ little sister was a Riley leukemia patient in 2020 when Okines was in nursing school. It was not an easy time, but her sister is healthy now and about to get her driver’s license.

“There were lots of miracles,” Okines said.

As an ambassador, she not only got to watch and learn from other, more experienced nurses, she gained a better picture of the hospital as a whole.

“It was an incredible, eye-opening experience,” she said. “I got to sit in with nurses who are really excited about the work they are doing and the initiatives their units have started that better serve their patient populations.”

That’s the kind of shared knowledge that she hopes will make everyone better.

“It was a privilege to be a part of this as such a young nurse,” she said. “To be asked and welcomed in, and to be surrounded by great, seasoned nurses is something I’m really thankful for. It’s an irreplaceable experience.”

Last Thursday’s gathering was the culmination of years of work, really, according to Kristin Miller, director of nursing practice at Riley and Magnet program director, all in support of achieving five-time Magnet status, a rare and prestigious honor.

“It’s not just those three days (of site visits),” she said. “It’s really part of our culture and the work we do here every day that makes us Magnet.”

Once this is over, the team has about six months to breathe before they start the process over again doing gap assessments in preparation for the next period of redesignation.

“Each time we redesignate, a new set of standards comes out,” Miller said. “Magnet continually raises the bar as the climate of healthcare and what nursing looks like changes over the years.”

Why is the designation so important?

“It pushes us to strive for nursing excellence,” she said. “It’s an evidence-based blueprint for nursing excellence, so when we put these things into place, we have better outcomes for our patients and our team members.”

The site visits are the last step in the redesignation process. To even get to that point, nursing leadership has to submit documentation to be reviewed and verified by the Commission on Magnet to see if it meets the threshold for moving on. Stories are compiled to reflect a culture of transformational leadership, structural empowerment, exemplary professional practice, new knowledge innovation and empirical outcomes.

Also considered are nurse engagement and education data, patient experience data and quality indicators.

“The purpose of the site visit is to verify, amplify and clarify,” Miller said. “To make sure we talk the talk and walk the walk. Anybody can sit down and write a great story about something, but they want to make sure that what we said in that document is what we do every day.”

Whether you are a patient, family or a new nurse looking for opportunity, you naturally want the best, she added. And it’s not just about clinical skills.

“It’s about that interprofessional collaboration – how nursing works with pharmacy, food and nutrition, physicians, EVS (and other teams) – to ensure everybody is on the same page, working toward the same goals,” she said.

The Magnet appraisers caught on to Riley’s one-team culture, said Miller, who has worked at the hospital for 18 years, starting at about the same time as the hospital’s first Magnet designation.

“The thing I love about it is it really focuses on bedside nurses and the impact they make in the work they do every day.”

It’s also a chance to share knowledge and best practices across units and hospitals, she said.

“This fills me up and gets me excited. Being able to share Riley’s story is a way to recognize and reward the great work that happens here every day.”

Official notification of Riley’s Magnet status is expected early next year.