Background and purpose:
Advanced care planning documents, such as the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), require authorized medical provider signatures; only recently have nurse practitioners (NPs) been authorized to sign these forms. Recent legislation in West Virginia (WV) granting NPs signatory authority on POLST forms and the creation of a statewide registry provides an opportunity to examine the completion rates. The aim of this study was to investigate how recent legislation allowing NPs signatory authority for POLST forms has affected POLST completion.
Data were obtained from the WV statewide registry of POST forms completed by all authorized personnel. Forms submitted by NPs were compared with those completed by physicians on patient demographics, setting, resuscitation status, level of medical intervention, and errors. Variables were cross-tabulated by provider type to determine whether and how NP POST completion differed from that of physicians.
Forty-five NPs submitted 430 POST forms to the WV registry, which constituted 14.4% of the POST forms received. Ten NPs in community and hospital specialist palliative care teams submitted more than two thirds of these 430 forms. Nurse practitioner–completed POST forms were more likely to order do not resuscitate and comfort measures than POST forms ordered by physicians (both p < .001) and to be without errors (p < .001).
Implications for practice:
Nurse practitioners practicing in specialist palliative care roles in communities and hospitals have embraced the use of POST and followed through on complete and accurate completion of the forms. With this signatory authority, primary and specialist NPs have the potential to improve end-of-life care.