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The purpose of this study is to describe the contents and methods used by rheumatology nurses when they educate their patients with rheumatoid arthritis.Rheumatology nurses have an important role in educating patients with rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is a lack of knowledge on the content provided and the methods used by rheumatology nurses.The sample was drawn in using stratified random sampling and the data were collected from 80 rheumatology nurses with a questionnaire in 2003–2004 (response rate was 65·2%). The data were analysed using descriptive and non-parametric statistical tests.Medical treatment was the most commonly taught issue, as 76% of rheumatology nurses gave information on anti-rheumatic drugs prescribed to the rheumatoid arthritis patients and blood tests (64%) which must be taken as follow-up controls. Only 45% of the nurses discussed self care at home. Individual oral patient education (88%) and written materials by the local hospitals or drug industries (71%), were the most commonly used methods. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis were educated mostly in special health care units. A rheumatology nursing course did not have an effect on the chosen contents or methods when educating rheumatoid arthritis patients.It is important that rheumatology nurses teach more self-care abilities to patients with rheumatoid arthritis and use also the other teaching methods than oral individual method such as group sessions, teleinformatics and internet. The contents of rheumatology nursing course should be developed further to stress the importance of appropriate teaching methods and to point out the importance of self care abilities for patients.The results provided useful insight into education of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nurses should avoid the routine teaching programmes. They should take time to discuss with their patients and plan together the contents and methods, that education of patients with rheumatoid arthritis is based on patients' information needs and their individual learning capabilities.