It took a stack of documentation 15 inches high and more than a year-and-a-half of hard work, but Genesis Medical Center officials finally are able to celebrate.

Genesis leaders received word Monday that the hospital system has received Magnet designation, a recognition for demonstrating the highest standard of nursing care.

Fewer than 3 percent of hospitals achieve the honor.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Genesis officials said they are the fourth hospital in Iowa to be awarded Magnet status. Illinois has at least 10 such facilities.

“What a wonderful achievement for our nurses,” said Leo Bressanelli, the Genesis Health System president and chief executive officer. “The work they do every day is extraordinary, and Magnet recognition is well-deserved.”

Magnet designation is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an arm of the American Nurses Association in Washington, D.C.

The term “Magnet,” officials said, originally was given to a group of U.S. hospitals that successfully attracted and retained nurses during a national shortage in the 1980s.

“They researched what those hospitals were doing to keep the nurses and they set performance standards from that,” said Jacque

McClendon, the Genesis professional practice coordinator who organized the extensive, four-phase process to achieve Magnet designation. “There are 14 standards and 64 substandards that we had to document for them.”

Once compiled, the information on Genesis’ nursing program added up to more than eight volumes, or 3,000 pages of documentation.

“And once we sent that in, they still wanted more information,” McClendon said. “So that tells you how thorough the process is.”

It was submitted in December, and Magnet officials made a site visit in June.

Carole Reid, the Genesis vice president of patient services and chief nurse executive, said the Magnet group interviewed the nursing staff as well as community members.

“We had to create programs that reflect the innovative features of the Genesis organization in order to be compliant,” she said. “For instance, we created a program that focuses on patient and employee diversity.”

Reid said Genesis must submit an annual report showing how it has grown and changed for the better.

The designation itself lasts four years.

“It’s a constant incentive to do better,” Reid added. “And that’s part of what is so good about this designation. It affirms the quality of nursing care we provide, shows that Genesis is a good place to work  and makes us strive to do better.”

Genesis employs about 1,100 nurses at its two Davenport campuses. Hospital officials said they plan to have a reception in the next couple of weeks to honor the nursing staff.

Other Iowa hospitals with Magnet designation include University Hospitals in Iowa City, Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque and Alegant Mercy in Council Bluffs.

Trinity Regional Health System officials said they have been working toward Magnet designation for the past year and estimate the process may take them another two years to complete. About two-thirds of hospitals that go through the process receive the official designation.

“Trinity’s continued pursuit of excellence has led us to formally travel the Magnet journey for over a year now,” said Carol Dwyer, Trinity’s chief nurse executive and vice president of operations. “Our reputation of clinical excellence at Trinity has created a waiting list of nurses wanting to work within our health system. Our rich professional practice work environment and highly engaged staff have distinguished Trinity in such a way that we can be highly selective in choosing our staff.”

Rachelle Treiber can be contacted at (563) 383-2363 or rtreiber@qctimes.com.