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Volume 3, Issue 3
March 2011

Partnering with Nurses to Strengthen Health Care

  • William D. Corser, Ph.D., R.N., NEA-BC
  • Associate Professor
  • College of Nursing

For the past 25 years, Dr. Bill Corser, Associate Professor in MSU's College of Nursing, has been involved in just about every kind of nursing activity, from nursing student at Winona State University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (where he obtained his Ph.D.), to staff nurse in medical and intensive care, nurse manager, staff developer, and nurse administrator. Because of the breadth of his experience and expertise, he is frequently called on to provide guidance to health care systems that are working toward magnet certification. He is currently working with the Allegiance Health System in Jackson, Michigan.

Photograph for Partnering with Nurses to Strengthen Health Care

Magnet certification is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to recognize health care organizations that provide excellence in nursing. According to the ANCC, the goal is to ensure that "each applicant and designee [are]: promoting quality in a setting that supports professional practice; identifying excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients/residents; and disseminating 'best practices' in nursing services."

Achieving magnet status is highly desirable for any health care system as it gives a seal of approval to the level of quality care that exists in that system. Not only is the system trusted by the consumer but, according to Corser, it is often more effective at drawing and retaining quality personnel. Currently, there are 13 health systems in Michigan with this prestigious status.

Preparing Nurses for the "Magnet Journey"

Pursuing this certification is a long, involved process that is frequently referred to as the "magnet journey." Corser's role is to assist applicants who are taking this journey. This includes: helping nurses develop their proposal ideas; formulating research questions and providing counsel on how to investigate them; and helping to prepare strategic planning documents aimed at system-wide quality improvement.

When magnet surveyors come to assess a health care system, they look to see if the applicant system has conducted evidence-based research, assessed its strengths and shortcomings, planned for changes in quality care delivery, and documented outcomes. In the end, says Corser, "They want to see products—what substantive work has this system been engaged in, in the last several years—not just promises."

Because so many nurses come to Corser with an idea for a project, he developed a "Starter's Guide" to the research process. So far, he's provided this guide to hundreds of nurses in different health systems. But Corser is quick to point out that the work is not all one-way. Nurses bring their clinical expertise to the table as well. "They are the experts on nursing care, and they know best about their area of nursing in 2011 terms. You need to convey that they have a different expertise that's very important."

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Because the work is interdisciplinary, Corser works with several councils, each comprising 12-15 nurses or administrators. Leilani Tacia, one of his colleagues at Allegiance, is enthusiastic about the level of support Corser is able to provide nurses who are establishing research projects. Tacia notes, "In addition to his extensive knowledge of the research process, Dr. Corser is acutely aware of the hesitation many nurses have when it comes to this form of clinical inquiry. His willingness to cultivate a culture where the bedside caregiver feels supported enough to become a primary investigator is much appreciated. Dr. Corser's ability to explain complex statistical testing in a manner that is easily understood by all is much appreciated!"

This work has its challenges. As Corser explains, "Usually it's a matter of clarifying expectations. A system may not always appreciate what resources they already have on hand or what they need. Because I've worked with several systems, I have a broader frame of reference, so that I know what will or will not work. So, I provide strategies that I've seen work in other systems that have developed internal infrastructures to help their goals happen. My goal is to help them gain a vision of what's attainable and what needs to happen in the next several months."

Throughout his career, Corser has helped several health care systems along their "magnet journey." And it has been a rewarding process: "I haven't practiced [nursing] for several years, so I enjoy talking with 'real live nurses' and what their recent care experiences have been." It also informs his own research by giving him examples for the courses he teaches. "It's real-live data from nurses working hands-on, not just from a large national dataset. They're recent testimonials that help me appreciate what different kinds of nurses may be struggling with. It helps broaden my perspective on nursing practice."

For Corser, working with off-campus partners is an exhilarating experience. "Every time I go through the door at one of these health systems and get to talk to administrators and nurses, and see the patients and volunteers—it's a real battery charger!"

  • Written by Amy Byle, University Outreach and Engagement