POLST originally stood for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Some POLST programs still use this name; your state may call it something else. Within the many acronyms used for POLST, the P can stand for: Professional (including Physician Assistant, Advance Practice Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physicians, and other health care Professionals), Patient, Preferences, Palliative.
All adults should have advance directives to help guide their future health care plans and identify a surrogate decision maker. A POLST form is for when you become seriously ill or frail and its purpose is to provide medical orders to emergency personnel based on your current medical situation. POLST forms and advance directives are both advance care plans but they are not the same.
POLST is a process beginning with conversation between you and your doctor, nurse, or physician assistant. The conversation should include information about your current medical condition and what is important to you. You may choose to have a POLST form after this conversation—you should never be forced to have a POLST form.
POLST is a way for you to express end-of-life treatment wishes such as whether you would want: (1) emergency personnel to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event that you were found unconscious, not breathing, or without a pulse; (2) to go to the hospital, to be put on a breathing machine (if necessary), or if you want to be made comfortable where you are.
A POLST Form is a medical order that emergency personnel can follow whenever, and wherever, you have a medical emergency can cannot speak for yourself. Your doctor, nurse, or physician assistant must sign a POLST form for it to be valid (who can sign varies by state). Talk to your doctor, nurse of physician assistant if you are seriously ill or frail and toward the end of life and would like a POLST form.