Clinical nurse specialists provided more education and psychosocial support for rheumatoid arthritis patients, who in turn improved more and had fewer unplanned hospital admissions than those seeing a physician, a new study shows.

A University of Leeds clinical trial compared outcomes of 90 people who saw rheumatologists, and 90 others who saw clinical nurse specialists for their treatment. 

Both groups underwent physical exams, took patient histories and discussed pain control. The nurse-led appointment times were on average five minutes longer, according to researchers. 

The patients seeing the nurses saw greater improvement in their disease than those seeing the rheumatologists, although the nurses made fewer changes to medication regimes and ordered fewer tests.

“Why this study is so important is that it shows that specialist trained nurses can improve outcome, enhance the patient experience and reduce costs when compared to conventional doctor-led services,” said Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the trial.

Results were in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases in August.