Background Demand for complementary and alternative therapies is increasing and is affecting all healthcare settings, including critical care.

Methods A random sample of members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses was surveyed to determine the members’ attitudes, knowledge, perspectives, and use of complementary and alternative therapies.

Results Most of the 726 respondents were using one or more complementary and alternative therapies in practice. The most common therapies used were diet, exercise, relaxation techniques, and prayer. A majority of the nurses had some knowledge of more than half of the 28 therapies listed on the survey, and a majority desired additional training for 25 therapies. Respondents generally required more evidence judged as essential to use or recommend conventional therapy than to use or recommend complementary and alternative therapies. Nurses viewed complementary and alternative therapies positively overall, were open to use of the therapies, and perceived them as legitimate and beneficial to patients. Nurses judged the therapies helpful for treatment of a variety of symptoms. A majority of nurses desired an increase in the availability of the therapies for patients, patients’ families, and nursing staff. Nurses’ professional use of the therapies was related to having more knowledge of them, perceiving benefits of them, total number of therapies they recommended to patients, personal use, and affiliation with a mainstream religion.

Conclusions Educational programs that provide information about use of complementary and alternative therapies and the underlying evidence base most likely will increase the appropriate use of the therapies to achieve desired outcomes.

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