Outpatient Cancer Unit Improves Patient Experience

5 NE profile
Photo by Dan Dry

The 12-bed 5NE Oncology Evaluation Unit opened its doors in July 2009.


By Allison Horton

Instead of waiting hours in the emergency room or in the Infusion Therapy Department, cancer patients can visit the new, 12-bed 5NE Oncology Evaluation Unit for treatment.

“We can deliver a hybrid of inpatient and outpatient care,” said Sally Black, RN, clinical director for oncology. “Not only does the unit help decongest our ER and ambulatory Infusion Therapy Department, but it also helps us to meet the needs of our cancer patients requiring urgent care. They can bypass the long waits and come straight to the 5NE unit.”

The unit is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 5NE team includes a total of 15 registered nurses, five nursing support assistants and three secretaries, said Pamela McCall, RN, patient care manager. Hospitalists, who are general medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, also medically manage the patients’ care.

Patients can currently receive whatever treatments their physicians have ordered, including fluid and electrolyte replacements, lab draws, injections, blood transfusions and antibiotics. Currently, those patients needing chemotherapy can visit other oncology units at the Medical Center, including the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine.

Since opening in July 2009, the unit has had more than 1,000 patient visits, from people diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Patients visit once or several times, spending a half an hour to 12 hours on the unit. They also can be admitted as an inpatient, if needed, Black said.

This is more convenient for patients, who in the past, may have been asked to return another day or sent to the emergency room for treatment. “Bypassing the emergency room also is better for the health of an oncology patient, who has a low blood count and is susceptible to infections,” Black said. “We can treat them quickly in a safe, protective environment away from other patients who may expose them to harmful germs.”

Bessie Grant is one of those patients. In August 2009, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Grant has survived two previous bouts with breast cancer. Every three weeks, she visits the unit for six hours to receive a blood transfusion. “The consistency of having the same staff makes me feel more at ease,” Grant said. “The nurses got to know me and are more personable since I’ve been here several times before.”