Night watch: Our Nocturnal Program teams work dusk 'til dawn

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By Mary Brolley

While the world's largest medical center and the city that surrounds it sleep, our specialized Nocturnal Program team is hard at work.

The Nocturnal Program team tends to medical oncology patients, those just out of surgery or in the ICU, pediatric patients, and those admitted from our Emergency Center.

"Just because the day shift has gone home, it doesn't mean the patient won't spike a fever or have some other issue," says Angela Cone, program manager for the Nocturnal Program.
"Our team takes care of any issues patients have during our watch," she says.

Members of our Nocturnal Program team are specially trained to anticipate the needs of patients at night.

The team also includes a group of moonlighting physicians who cover even more hours, providing 24-hour care on weekends and holidays as well as overnight. Most are advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. All are credentialed and have privileges at MD Anderson. They are residents, fellows, and physicians on staff here and at other hospitals.

Improving care for cancer patients
Before the Nocturnal Program's launch in 2011, Hematology/Oncology fellows had been responsible for the care of our inpatients at night. As MD Anderson grew and the number of inpatient beds increased, the need to add to the after-hours team arose.

To improve patient safety and consistency of care, Thomas Burke, M.D., then executive vice president and physician-in-chief, commissioned a 24-hour task force in 2010 to look into patient care.

As a result, our Nocturnal Program was established to care for patients after hours in the hospital.

Teamwork after dark
Going from daytime to nighttime work can be challenging, according to Lakeisha Day, MLP  supervisor for the Nocturnal Program.

Fortunately, there's strong camaraderie within the team, which Day calls a diverse and dynamic group.

Members of our Nocturnal Program team care for patients throughout the Main Building. Over the course of their shifts, team members have gotten to know and bond with other night shift employees.

"It's different at night, less crowded," Day adds. "It's a truly collegial atmosphere."

A longer version of this article originally appeared in Messenger, our bimonthly employee publication.

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