Nurse Practioners Are Increasingly Helping Patients Fill Out End-Of-Life Forms

A study of end-of-life medical directives shows nurse practitioners — rather than doctors — are helping people make plans for dying.

Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST forms, tell doctors what treatment a patient wants as they die.

Do they want to be resuscitated if they stop breathing? Patients can ask for comfort measures only — like pain relief. Or they can ask for full treatment, like breathing tubes and trip to the emergency room.

When POLST forms were first developed in Oregon, it was mainly doctors who had the delicate conversation.

But now Dr. Susan Tolle, with OHSU says, 11 percent of forms are filled out by nurse practitioners.

“The roll of advanced practice nurses is substantially greater than anyone else has ever found,” she said.

The study, published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, found that of the 19 states using POLST forms now, three don’t allow nurse practitioners to fill them out — Georgia, New York and Louisiana.

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