I've been at both Magnet hospitals and non-Magnet hospitals. Honestly, I think the working conditions were actually better at the non-Magnet hospital.
I think the whole idea behind Magnet is to have nursing mimic the corporate world. In other professional jobs, the standard is having a bachelor's degree. So, Magnet hospitals want all nurses to have at least a bachelor's (they start hiring only BSN nurses, and force the existing ADN's/LPN's to get their bachelor's within a certain timeframe or they are terminated - they usually pay for it, however).
Also, a clinical ladder is established, meaning there are different levels of RN's depending on experience, and you're paid more the higher you go up. However, you don't move up just based on experience - you have to do a bunch of side research projects, committees, attending meetings, etc. A bunch of non-bedside stuff, basically.
I understand the desire to raise the bar on nursing professionalism, which is great, but you can't compare nursing to a professional desk job like accountants or bankers for a variety of reasons. (I previously worked in the corporate world too, and it's a totally different world than nursing. You can't apply what works for the corporate world to nursing.)
There is a lot of paperwork involved, and hospital administration becomes obsessed with getting Magnet status and keeping it. Therefore, they often lose sight of other issues that are important to the every day life of a nurse (like staffing, job satisfaction, etc.) (By the way - if there is an emphasis on staffing ratios, RN job satisfaction within the Magnet model, I've missed it and I never see it in action at the hospitals I've been at.)
Magnet sounds great in theory, but I haven't noticed it making my job any easier. In fact, it creates more busy work for me. And, most importantly, I don't think it improves pt care either. In fact, the extra work and paper pushing keeps me away from a greater focus on pt care.
It does give a hospital some good PR and prestiege, but now that more and more hospitals are getting Magnet status, it's becomming less exclusive and prestigious. You bascially jump through some hoops, fill out some forms, fudge some stats on paper, pay some money, etc, and you've got Magnet status.