The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment program: Oregon emergency medical technicians' practical experiences and attitudes

Terri A. Schmidt, Susan E. Hickman, Susan W. Tolle, Heather S. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

62 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate emergency medical technicians' (EMTs) experiences with the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program and learn about attitudes regarding its effectiveness. DESIGN: Anonymous survey mailed to a stratified random sample. SETTING: Tri-County Portland, Oregon, area. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 572 Oregon EMT respondents (out of 1,048 surveys) were included in the analysis. MEASUREMENTS: Survey questions about experiences with the POLST form and opinions about POLST. RESULTS: Respondents were mostly male (76%) and paramedics (66%). Most respondents (73%) had treated a patient with a POLST, and 74% reported receiving education about POLST. EMTs reported that POLST, when present, changed treatment in 45% of cases. Seventy-five percent of the respondents agreed that the POLST form provides clear instructions about patient preferences, and 93% agreed that the POLST form is useful in determining which treatments to provide when the patient is in cardiopulmonary arrest. Fewer (63%) agreed that the form is useful in determining treatments when the patient has a pulse and is breathing. CONCLUSION: Most respondents have experience with the POLST program. EMTs find the POLST form useful and often use it to change treatment decisions for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1430-1434
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2004



  • Emergency medical services
  • End-of-life treatments
  • Ethics
  • Out-of-hospital DNR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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