Meet Priscilla, Massachusetts POLST Program Director

Priscilla Ross

Q & A 

Why did you want to take this job? 

I have spent my entire career – almost 30 years - trying to shift the way medical providers and the community think and talk about serious illness and end of life.  It is an uphill battle, as anyone in this industry knows, with dire consequences for patients, families, providers and healthcare in general. When I saw this opportunity with the state, I realized that THIS is the way we can really make positive movement and change, through a statewide initiative, brought about by legislation. And I love Secretary Chen’s approach to this work. It isn’t about changing a form; it’s about identifying appropriate patients, introducing the conversation, and documenting it in a way that is standard, accessible, and representative of the patient’s wishes.

 

What are going to be our most critical success factors?

We need representation of all the populations that this program impacts. It’s not just older adults. It’s about people with disabilities, people who speak different languages. It’s so vast. It requires representation and deep engagement from populations across the state. At the provider level, it’s about providing the resources, tools, and training so they are comfortable initiating the conversations. For EMS, it’s about having one source of truth, accessible, and one they can trust reflects the most recent stated wishes of the patient.

 

What can we learn from our work with MOLST?

When the MOLST first came out, it was a terrific opportunity to get out into the communities to educate them about this new form, but to go even deeper. We would go to Senior Centers, Assisted Living facilities, community centers, libraries, faith-based communities, and talk about the expanse of advance directives. Healthcare proxy, MOLST form, Power of Attorney. Everyone was so grateful for the MOLST. But they wanted to know: how can we (the medical providers) assure them we will follow it? This is the next step, to get to one source of truth.

 

What do you think will be most different about this implementation?

In moving to the POLST – and again, it’s not about the form, it’s about the processes - we now have the opportunity to align with National POLST and all the best practices and evidence-based practices that have been developed. We’re moving towards standardization of protocols and practices, supported with regulations and requirements, and advised by the very populations we serve, to ensure that we are having provider initiated, patient centered conversations and documenting it in a way that is accessible and portable across all care settings.

 

What are you most excited about?

Being the first state in the country to have an eRegistry that is integrated with electronic medical records and accessible to EMTs and patients and patient representatives.

 

What keeps you up at night?

The amount of stakeholders, both internal to state government and external (health care systems, EMS, consumers, communities) that we need to engage if we want to be successful.

 

How can people get involved in this work?

For now, go to Signup Form to sign up to get our updates.

In the future, help us to socialize the MOLST to POLST transition! Invite us to your conferences, your stakeholder meetings, your staff meetings. If you get a brilliant idea, email it to Priscilla at [email protected]!