BACKGROUND: The development of user-friendly laboratory analyzers, combined with the need for rapid assessment of critically ill patients, has led to the performance of in vitro diagnostic testing at the point of care by personnel without formal laboratory training. OBJECTIVES: To determine the range of laboratory testing performed by critical care nurses and their attitudes toward this role. METHODS: A survey of critical care nursing consultants was conducted, using a modified Likert scale, to assess objective measures of point-of-care testing practice in critical care units and to determine nurses' attitudes toward the practice of point-of-care testing. Statistical analysis was performed to determine significant trends in responses. RESULTS: Of the units responding to the survey, 35% used critical care nurses exclusively to perform point-of-care testing, 32.5% used laboratory technicians and critical care nurses, and 25% used other personnel. Of critical care nurses performing laboratory testing, 95.5% performed blood glucose analysis; 18.7%, arterial blood gas analysis; 4.5%, electrolyte analysis; 4.5%, hematology profiles; and 22.7%, other testing. Most agreed that stat tests were not reported promptly, thereby necessitating bedside testing. Respondents indicated that they would prefer that laboratory personnel operate in vitro diagnostic equipment and that requirements for critical care nurses to perform laboratory testing detracted from other patient care duties. CONCLUSIONS: Most nurses who perform point-of-care testing responded that it was necessary and helpful in patient management. However, they would prefer, because of their other patient care responsibilities, that laboratory personnel take this responsibility.

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