POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) – Definition & Detailed Explanation – End-of-Life and Hospice Care Glossary

I. What is POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment)?

POLST, which stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, is a medical order form that outlines a patient’s preferences for life-sustaining treatments in the event of a medical emergency or at the end of life. It is a portable document that is designed to ensure that a patient’s wishes regarding medical treatment are honored across various healthcare settings.

II. Who can complete a POLST form?

A POLST form is typically completed by a healthcare provider in consultation with the patient or their designated healthcare proxy. This form is usually completed for patients with serious illnesses or advanced frailty who may be at risk of a medical crisis. It is important for the patient to have a discussion with their healthcare provider about their goals of care and preferences for life-sustaining treatments before completing a POLST form.

III. When should a POLST form be completed?

A POLST form should be completed when a patient has a serious illness, advanced frailty, or a terminal condition and wishes to document their preferences for life-sustaining treatments. It is important for patients to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about their values, goals of care, and treatment preferences before completing a POLST form.

IV. What information is included in a POLST form?

A POLST form typically includes information about the patient’s preferences for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intubation, artificial nutrition and hydration, and other life-sustaining treatments. The form also includes information about the patient’s goals of care, treatment limitations, and preferences for comfort measures. The POLST form is a medical order that must be signed by a healthcare provider to be valid.

V. How is a POLST form used in end-of-life care?

A POLST form is used in end-of-life care to ensure that a patient’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments are honored. The form provides clear instructions to healthcare providers about the patient’s preferences for medical treatment in the event of a medical crisis. It helps to prevent unwanted or unnecessary interventions and ensures that the patient’s goals of care are respected.

VI. What is the difference between a POLST form and an advance directive?

While both a POLST form and an advance directive are legal documents that outline a patient’s preferences for medical treatment, there are some key differences between the two. An advance directive is a written document that specifies a patient’s wishes for medical care in the event that they are unable to communicate their preferences. It typically includes instructions about life-sustaining treatments, organ donation, and other healthcare decisions.

On the other hand, a POLST form is a medical order that is completed by a healthcare provider in consultation with the patient. It is a portable document that provides specific instructions about the patient’s preferences for life-sustaining treatments in the event of a medical emergency or at the end of life. Unlike an advance directive, a POLST form is a medical order that must be signed by a healthcare provider to be valid.