Impact of an internal medicine nocturnist service on care of patients with cancer at a large Canadian teaching hospital: a quality-improvement study

Richard Dunbar-Yaffe, Robert C. Wu, Amit Oza, Victoria Lee-Kim, Peter Cram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Nocturnists (overnight hospitalists) are commonly implemented in US teaching hospitals to adhere to per-resident patient caps and improve care but are rare in Canada, where patient caps and duty hours are comparatively flexible. Our objective was to assess the impact of a newly implemented nocturnist program on perceived quality of care, code status documentation and patient outcomes. METHODS: Nocturnists were phased in between June 2018 and December 2019 at Toronto General Hospital, a large academic teaching hospital in Toronto, Ontario. We performed a quality-improvement study comparing rates of code status entry into the electronic health record at admission, in-hospital mortality, the 30-day readmission rate and hospital length of stay for patients with cancer admitted by nocturnists and by residents. Surveys were administered in June 2019 to general internal medicine faculty and residents to assess their perceptions of the impact of the nocturnist program. RESULTS: From July 2018 to June 2019, 30 nocturnists were on duty for 241/364 nights (66.5%), reducing the mean maximum overnight per-resident patient census from 40 (standard deviation [SD] 4) to 25 (SD 5) (p < 0.001). The rate of admission code status entry was 35.3% among patients admitted by residents (n = 133) and 54.9% among those admitted by nocturnists (n = 339) (p < 0.001). The mortality rate was 10.5% among patients admitted by residents and 5.6% among those admitted by nocturnists (p = 0.06), the 30-day readmission rate was 8.3% and 5.9%, respectively (p = 0.4), and the mean acute length of stay was 7.2 (SD 7.0) days and 6.4 (SD 7.8) days, respectively (p = 0.3). Surveys were completed by 15/24 faculty (response rate 62%), who perceived improvements in patient safety, efficiency and trainee education; however, only 30/102 residents (response rate 29.4%) completed the survey. INTERPRETATION: Although implementation of a nocturnist program did not affect patient outcomes, it reduced residents' overnight patient census, and improved faculty perceptions of quality of care and education, as well as documentation of code status. Our results support nocturnist implementation in Canadian teaching hospitals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E667-E672
JournalCMAJ open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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