Nurses typically use referral forms to refer patients to hospice care, support groups, smoking cessation programs and follow-up services, such as diabetic foot care, in-home physical therapy or wound care. Depending on the type of referral, the referral forms used by nurses may include standard language confirming the patient's approval for the nurse to release confidential information. However, the format and other details of a referral form vary based on the hospital or agency.
Referrals made by nurses vary based on their nursing degree, specialty and place of employment, such as a hospital or public health department. Nurses working in hospitals are part of a care team that includes physicians. In this setting, the nurse usually makes referrals based on the doctor's orders. These may be referrals for X-rays or occupational therapy during the patient's hospital stay. Alternatively, they may be for weekly in-home nursing visits. In such cases, patient information is sent along with the referral to the appropriate department or agency. Nurses working with the elderly in an assisted living facility generally make referrals to a physician for medical care or services such as foot care, physical therapy or speech therapy.
Nurses also refer patients to community services by providing information about the specific service, how to establish contact, and the benefits of pursuing the service, such as addiction counseling, asthma education or cancer support groups. It is the patient's responsibility to follow-up on this type of referral.
Licensed practical nurses do not make referrals, while nurse practitioners, who are qualified to see patients without a physician's supervision in the majority of states, make referrals for medical tests and treatment in addition to outpatient services.