Daily Message

Apr. 16, 2014: For Healthcare Decisions Day, NJHA and State Partner to Promote POLST

Tomorrow is the national observance of Healthcare Decisions Day, and NJHA and the state Department of Health are marking the event by encouraging New Jerseyans to learn more about the state’s Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment program, or POLST.

POLST, signed into state law in 2011, allows patients with a life-limiting illness, in collaboration with their physician or advanced practice nurse, to identify goals of care and preferences for treatment. Those goals and preferences are then detailed in a POLST form that is transferrable across healthcare settings and carries the weight of a medical order.

The Department of Health worked closely with NJHA’s Institute for Quality and Patient Safety on the development of the state’s form and guidance to implement the law. Resources such as the form itself (in multiple languages), a patient and family brochure, an implementation guide for healthcare professionals and more are available on NJHA’s POLST Web site. 

"New Jersey's POLST form is designed to be completed jointly by an individual and a physician or advance practice nurse. It truly is a partnership between the patient and the healthcare professional," said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan. "We're working with healthcare providers, through Webinars and other training programs, to emphasize the importance of POLST and its great potential to improve the end-of-life care experience."

While POLST is focused on residents who are facing a life-limiting illness, advance directives can be used by individuals in any stage of life, noted Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. Advance directives are an important tool to document preferences for care in a situation where an individual can no longer communicate.

"The best way to ensure that your dignity and autonomy are honored should you become unable to make your own healthcare decisions is by sharing your wishes about end-of-life medical treatment," said O'Dowd. "By reviewing options for care and having discussions in advance, individuals can alleviate some of the challenges that come along with a serious illness."