Background Anxiety is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Critical care nurses are uniquely positioned to reduce anxiety in their patients. Critical care nurses’ beliefs about and frequency of use of strategies to reduce anxiety have not been studied.

Objectives To explore critical care nurses’ beliefs about the importance of anxiety management and to describe nurses’ reported use of strategies to manage anxiety in their patients.

Methods A random sample (N = 2500) of members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses was asked to complete the Critical Care Nurse Anxiety Identification and Management Survey.

Results Respondents (n = 783) were primarily female (92%), white (88.5%) staff nurses (74.1%) who thought that anxiety is potentially harmful (mean, 4.1; SD, 0.8; range, 1 = no harm to 5 = life-threatening harm), that anxiety management is important (mean, 4.8; SD, 0.6; range, 1 = not important to 5 = very important), and that effective anxiety management is beneficial (mean, 4.6; SD, 0.6; range, 1 = no benefit to 5 = profound benefit). A majority commonly used pharmacological management; most also used information and communication interventions. Fewer subjects used the presence of patients’ family members to alleviate patients’ anxiety; few reported using stress-reduction techniques.

Conclusion Most respondents thought that treating anxiety is important and beneficial. Commonly used strategies included pharmacological relief of anxiety and pain and information and communication interventions. Although these strategies are useful, they may not effectively reduce anxiety in all patients.

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