Background Little information is available nationally about critical care units and nurses. What is known about nurses in hospitals is generally not broken down among all the specialties.

Objectives To describe issues of workforce, compensation, and care specific to critical care units and nurses who work in them.

Methods The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses conducted a survey of randomly selected facilities with critical care units in the United States. Facilities were solicited via e-mail to respond to a survey on the World Wide Web and provide information on operations, evaluations, nursing staff reimbursement and incentives, staffing, and quality indicators. Responding facilities also provided contact information for units in the facilities. Those units were surveyed about operations, acuity systems, staffing, policies on visitation and end-of-life care, administrative structure, documentation, certification, professional advancement, vacancy/floating, staff satisfaction, orientation, association membership, wages, advanced practice nursing, and quality indicators.

Results The initial response rate (120 of 658 eligible facilities) was 18.2%, and 300 of 576 solicited units nominated by the facilities responded, yielding a 52.1% response rate for the second phase.

Conclusions These survey data define the scope and intensity of services offered and provide more specific figures about staffing issues and unit practices than has been accessible before. Healthcare providers may use this information for benchmarking purposes, especially for instances in which the tables provide data for each particular type of critical care unit.

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