Nurse-assisted counseling for smokers in primary care

Ann Intern Med. 1993 Apr 1;118(7):521-5. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-118-7-199304010-00006.


Objective: Physician-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.

Design: Randomized controlled trial with a 12-month follow-up.

Setting: Internal medicine and family practice offices in a health maintenance organization.

Participants: Smokers (n = 3161) who were patients of participating physicians or other medical care providers (n = 60).

Intervention: Medical 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.

Results: Physicians 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.

Conclusion: Involving nurses in counseling smokers reduces physician burden, makes counseling more likely, and significantly increases cessation rates compared with brief physician advice alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Staff*
  • Oregon
  • Patient Care Team
  • Primary Health Care
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*