Tennessee's Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) Form

A POST form describes health care wishes for someone facing a life-threatening medical condition.

You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in Tennessee, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) form. Here, we discuss what a POST form is and when you might need one.

What Is a POST Form?

A POST form is a doctor’s order that helps you keep control over medical care at the end of life. Like a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, the form tells emergency medical personnel and other health care providers whether or not to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. A POST form may be used in addition to -- or instead of -- a DNR order. The POST form may also provide other information about your wishes for end-of-life health care, as explained just below.

How to Make a POST Form

A health care professional can help you create a POST form if you enter a medical facility or health care setting such as a hospital, nursing home, or hospice care in a facility or at home. If a member of the medical staff does not ask you whether you want to create a POST form, you may ask for one.

To be legally valid, a POST form must be signed by:

  • a doctor or other approved health care professional, and
  • you or your legally appointed health care decisionmaker.

A POST form is usually printed on brightly colored paper so it will easily stand out in your medical records. The form travels with you if you move from one health care setting to another. You can change it or cancel it at any time.

How a POST Form Differs From Other Health Care Directives

A POST form differs from a DNR order in one important way: A POST form also includes directions about life-sustaining measures in addition to CPR, such as intubation, antibiotics, and feeding tubes. The POST form helps medical providers understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for a properly prepared advance health care directive.

An advance health care directive provides more information than a POST form, including details about your health care agent, more complete health care wishes, and your preference for organ donation. 

Which Health Care Directives Do You Need?

You need to consider a POST only if you're facing a life-threatening medical condition. If you're healthy, you need only an advance directive to provide a full set of wishes for your treatment in the event of an unexpected accident or medical crisis.

On the other hand, a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness or frailty that requires care in a medical setting -- or ongoing care at home -- may need a POST in addition to a traditional health care directive. That’s because an advance directive may not be enough to prevent medical personnel from resuscitating a patient in an emergency. For that, it's important to have a medical order such as a POST. If you feel strongly that you don’t want emergency measures at the end of life -- or if you’re caring for someone who feels that way -- find out about making a POST in addition to an advance health care directive.

For details about preparing health care directives, see Tennessee Living Wills and Advance Health Care Directives: What You Need to Know.

For More Information

To learn more, and to view an example of the Tennessee POST form, visit the website of the Tennessee Department of Health. To prepare a POST form for yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor.

For general information about how to document your health care wishes, see the Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney section of Nolo.com.

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