The effectiveness of nurse-led care in people with rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review

Int J Nurs Stud. 2011 May;48(5):642-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2011.02.007. Epub 2011 Mar 9.


Objectives: The objective of this systematic review was to determine the effectiveness of nurse-led care in rheumatoid arthritis.

Design: Systematic review of effectiveness.

Data sources: Electronic databases (AMED, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, HMIC, HTA, MEDLINE, NHEED, Ovid Nursing and PsycINFO) were searched from 1988 to January 2010 with no language restrictions. Inclusion criteria were: randomised controlled trials, nurse-led care being part of the intervention and including patients with RA.

Review methods: Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by a second reviewer. Quality assessment was conducted independently by two reviewers using the Cochrane Collaboration's Risk of Bias Tool. For each outcome measure, the effect size was assessed using risk ratio or ratio of means (RoM) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) as appropriate. Where possible, data from similar outcomes were pooled in a meta-analysis.

Results: Seven records representing 4 RCTs with an overall low risk of bias (good quality) were included in the review. They included 431 patients and the interventions (nurse-led care vs usual care) lasted for 1-2years. Most effect sizes of disease activity measures were inconclusive (DAS28 RoM=0.96, 95%CI [0.90-1.02], P=0.16; plasma viscosity RoM=1 95%CI [0.8-1.26], p=0.99) except the Ritchie Articular Index (RoM=0.89, 95%CI [0.84-0.95], P<0.001) which favoured nurse-led care. Results from some secondary outcomes (functional status, stiffness and coping with arthritis) were also inconclusive. Other outcomes (satisfaction and pain) displayed mixed results when assessed using different tools making them also inconclusive. Significant effects of nurse-led care were seen in quality of life (RAQoL RoM=0.83, 95%CI [0.75-0.92], P<0.001), patient knowledge (PKQ RoM=4.39, 95%CI [3.35-5.72], P<0.001) and fatigue (median difference=-330, P=0.02).

Conclusions: The estimates of the primary outcome and most secondary outcomes showed no significant difference between nurse-led care and the usual care. While few outcomes favoured nurse-led care, there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether this is the case. More good quality RCTs of nurse-led care effectiveness in rheumatoid arthritis are required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing / standards*
  • United Kingdom