Organizing the P in a SOAP note

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The Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan (SOAP) format of the progress note is widely recognized by clinicians in many specialties, including psychiatry.1 An online search for how to format a psychiatric SOAP note provides a plethora of styles from which to choose.2,3 While the suggestions for how to write the Subjective, Objective, and Assessment sections are fairly consistent, suggestions for how to write the Plan section vary widely.

The Plan section should be organized in a way that is systematic and relevant across many psychiatric settings, including outpatient, inpatient, emergency room, jail, pediatric, geriatric, addiction, and consultation-liaison. To best accomplish this, I have designed a format for this section that consists of 6 categories:

1. Safety: Which safety issues need to be addressed?

Examples: If your patient is an inpatient, what precautions are required? If outpatient, Tarasoff? Involuntary hold? Police presence? Child or Adult Protective Services? Access to a firearm?

2. Collateral: Would it be helpful to obtain collateral information from any source?

Examples: Family? Friend? Caregiver? Teacher? Primary care clinician? Therapist? Past medical or psychiatric records?

3. Medical: Are there any medical tests or resources to consider?

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