Beacon Program Overview

Beacon Award: What Is It?

The Beacon Award for Excellence® is a process by which an individual unit completes an application and upon review may be awarded a three-year designation of Bronze, Silver or Gold determined by the scoring of the six categories within the applicaiton. This award program is an opportunity for every unit to exemplify excellence in professional practice, patient care and outcomes.

Learn more about evaluation criteria.

Why Beacon?

A beacon is defined as a signal for guidance, a source of inspiration or a call to assemble for some great purpose. For patients and families, Beacon means better care, improved outcomes and greater overall satisfaction.

For nurses, Beacon means a positive, supportive work environment with greater collaboration, higher morale and lower turnover. Hospitals with Beacon units enjoy local and national recognition.

Achieving Beacon status attracts quality employees and helps reduce staff turnover — both of which are important in a time of extensive staffing shortages. Finally, the Beacon Award helps the community to more easily locate the best healthcare providers.

Beacon Background

As the undisputed leader in acute and critical care nursing, it was imperative that AACN possess the knowledge and data to identify environmental benchmarks for high quality patient care. Four major information sources were accessed to shape the framework for the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence:

  • The 1996 Institute of Medicine report on nurse staffing noted a serious deficiency in research on the effects of structural measures on patient care quality (e.g., staffing ratios).
  • The President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry report in 1998 called for action to reduce the “unacceptably high rate of injury in the healthcare workplace.”
    • It also emphasized the importance of addressing “the serious morale problems that exist among healthcare workers.”
  • Healthcare environmental scanning and direct communication with AACNs constituents contributed to the development of the Beacon Award by identifying characteristics of acute and critical care environments and nurse-sensitive patient care outcomes.
  • Research done by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) through their Magnet Nursing Services Recognition Program identified healthcare organizations that provide the very best patient care and upheld the tradition of professional nursing practice.

AACN used this information as a background to develop the 6 categories and 38 questions of the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence as a mechanism to evaluate and recognize excellence individual  nursing units. A broader goal of Beacon is to evaluate the data from units across the country to identify trends, tools,  creative solutions and best practices.

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