Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System

Recognized for Nursing Excellence

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital received the prestigious Magnet designation last month, an elite status of nursing excellence and attained by fewer than 10 percent of U.S. healthcare institutions.

The recognition is the highest honor for nursing excellence possible, says Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System President and CEO Pete Delgado, and it is the result of a long record of investment in a strong, cohesive, and highly skilled workforce. 

The fact that it capped one of the most challenging years healthcare organizations have ever faced makes it even more meaningful.

According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, the process of pursuing Magnet recognition provides a roadmap for clinical and nursing excellence, which advances and benefits the entire organization. Excellent clinical and organizational outcomes are achieved by creating an environment that supports interprofessional collaboration, shared decision-making, innovation, and evidence-based practice. For patients, Magnet recognition ensures the highest quality care, delivered by nurses who are encouraged and supported to be the very best that they can be.

“Achieving Magnet recognition, especially in the face of COVID-19 is a testament to our staff and our high standards,” said Delgado. “Achieving Magnet recognition reinforces our culture and commitment to patient care. It’s an exciting achievement for our organization and reflects service to the community.”

In 2016, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital embarked on the Magnet journey with the formation of a shared governance structure and the development of a professional practice model. Since then, SVMH has implemented many processes and infrastructures to support professional growth and autonomy, and clinical excellence.

Building up pathways for advancement and career growth plays a huge role, says Delgado. Professional development programs include tuition assistance, support for advanced degrees and continuing education, a clinical ladder program, a formal mentoring program, national certification support, and workshops for precepting. Five years ago, about 30 percent of its nurses held bachelor’s degrees, with the majority having completed the more common two-year nursing programs. Today, the number of nurses with four-year degrees has climbed to 65 percent, said Delgado, with the target of 80 percent.

That more vigorous nursing education builds critical thinking skills and deepens scientific understanding, creating a higher standard of nursing professionalism. Delgado said SVMH continues to build bridges with California State University, Monterey Bay, and Hartnell College to increase opportunities for educational advancement in nursing and supports those mid-career nurses who seek to advance their professional education through scholarships and incentives. 

And since more than 70 percent of its patient population is Latino, SVMH has worked hard to increase cultural competence, investing in language courses so as to communicate with patients, whenever possible, in their preferred language.

Last year, when hospital staff around the county were facing layoffs and furloughs due to massive revenue losses from canceled elective surgeries, SVMH found ways to redirect idled employees into community support positions. More than 200 employees were given the option to work at a community call center and to help nonprofit organizations such as the Salvation Army. Registered nurses met with ag companies, conducted early-morning COVID safety education talks in fields for farmworkers, and visited the hotels where COVID-positive agricultural workers quarantined to check on them and provide care. Those employees continued to earn paychecks, said Delgado, while also doing jobs critical to reducing the spread of the virus.

COVID showed how capable, and adaptable, health care can be, and Delgado said the challenges of the pandemic have pushed health care forward in lasting ways.

“It would have taken 10 years to move telemedicine capabilities,” said Delgado. “Instead, it took 10 days, because that was the only way physicians could see their patients. Physicians in our group were able to pivot and educated folks as to how to use the equipment,” he said. 

In addition, the unprecedented level of collaboration between Monterey County’s four hospitals — SVMH, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Natividad Medical Center, and Mee Memorial Healthcare System, helped ensure that critical supplies and information could be shared to everyone’s benefit.

“I’m really proud of my nurses and my hospital staff for finding innovative ways to keep patients and everyone safe and keep the hospital going.”

To make health care accessible and available to the community it serves, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System has expanded the number of doctors and specialists in its network and made sure patients could receive the care they need, regardless of financial status. Healthcare doesn’t stop at the hospital walls, says Delgado: Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, in conjunction with Taylor Farms and Montage Health, is helping communities engage in creating healthier environments where they live, work, learn and play, through the Blue Zones Project. Initially launched in Salinas, the Blue Zones Project is now extending throughout Monterey County.