Nurse-assisted Counseling for Smokers in Primary Care

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ObjectivePhysician-delivered advice to stop smoking is effective, but time demands often reduce the number of smokers who receive assistance. We evaluated three nurse-assisted interventions designed to minimize physician burden and increase counseling in primary care settings.DesignRandomized controlled trial with a 12-month follow-up.SettingInternal medicine and family practice offices in a health maintenance organization.ParticipantsSmokers (n = 3161) who were patients of participating physicians or other medical care providers (n = 60).InterventionMedical care providers delivered a 30-second stop-smoking prompt to 2707 smokers and referred them to an on-site nurse smoking counselor. The nurse randomly provided a two-page pamphlet (advice control) or one of three nurse-assisted interventions: 1) self-quit training; 2) referral to a group cessation program; or 3) a combination of self-quit training and referral. Each nurse-delivered intervention included a 10-minute video, written materials, and a follow-up phone call.ResultsPhysicians delivered brief advice to 86% of identified smokers during the 1-year program. The proportion of participants reporting abstinence after both 3 and 12 months of follow-up nearly doubled (P = 0.01) for the nurse-assisted self-quit (7.1%), group-referral (7.6%), and combination (6.9%) interventions, compared to brief physician advice alone (3.9%) (P < 0.05). Saliva cotinine tests confirmed these effects (P < 0.004), although quit rates were lower (3.4%, 4.7%, 4.3%, and 2.3%, respectively) because roughly one half of quitters chose not to provide a saliva sample and were counted as smokers.ConclusionInvolving nurses in counseling smokers reduces physician burden, makes counseling more likely, and significantly increases cessation rates compared with brief physician advice alone.

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