BENNINGTON — Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) has obtained recognition as a Magnet hospital for the fourth time.

Dozens of staff gathered in the employee cafeteria Tuesday afternoon for a video conference call with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Cheers erupted when Donna Haven, chair of the commission on Magnet, announced the entity unanimously voted to recognize SVMC.

"The fact that we're one of the smallest hospitals in the country to be recognized, and that this is the fourth time we've gotten it, puts us in a small elite group of hospitals," Thomas A. Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Healthcare, said in an interview after the announcement.

The hospital is one of 31 four-time designees in the world and one of three in New England.

"This is something you deserved, you worked hard for it," Haven said to Carol Conroy, the hospital's chief nursing officer, during the video conference call. "You're a special organization because of that."

Haven also noted with amusement the large crowd behind Conroy, who was seated at a laptop, and said that SVMC is "the first hospital to ask us to do this this way."

Magnet is a recognition from AANC, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. Magnet is the gold standard for nursing excellence and provides consumers with the ultimate benchmark for measuring quality of care, according to the ANCC.


SVMC was first recognized in 2002 and was redesignated in 2006 and 2010. It's now one of two Magnet organizations in Vermont — Rutland Regional Medical Center received the designation in 2010 and again this year.

Hospital officials said obtaining Magnet status is a team effort among departments and staff at all levels. The hospital promotes a "patient-centered approach" at its inpatient, outpatient and ambulatory settings, they said, as well as its primary and specialty care practices. Several who spoke commended the hospital's nursing staff.

"This can't happen without strong nurses," Dee said. "Carol and her leaders set the standards and expectations, and our team rallies around that."

The application process is rigorous, Conroy said, and was more than a year in the making. The application had to address over 90 standards and supply evidence to support claims. And a team of four appraisers spent two-and-a-half days in Bennington meeting with not only nursing staff and department heads, but community members and even college professors.

Haven said the site-visit appraisers identified several hospital programs that were exemplary. That included Transitional Care Nursing, which drastically reduces hospital readmission rates, and the Community Care Team, which brings leaders from the most often used services together to collaborate on care for patients with complex needs. Appraisers were also impressed with the hospital's Safe Arms program that keeps infants withdrawing from opiates from being transferred to hospitals further from their families.

"Nurses literally wrap their arms around the mothers to be and help them negotiate the system to help produce a healthy, excellent birth experience," Haven said.

Each patient at SVMC is looked at as an individual, Conroy explained, and the care they receive is based on their needs, concerns, likes and dislikes. The hospital also promotes collaboration among disciplines.

"It's a team effort from the minute the patient arrives to when they leave," Conroy said.

"They're on the forefront of what's happening," said Claire Murray, a registered nurse and board of trustees member. "As healthcare progresses, so does SVMC."

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979