Severe sepsis is one of the most significant concerns in the treatment of critical care patients, with more than 750 000 cases occurring annually. The condition spreads quickly, is often difficult to recognize, and has a mortality rate of 28% to 50%.2–7  Identification of patients at high risk for progressing to severe sepsis is critical and, in many cases, monitoring patients, rather than evaluating for treatment, can increase the risk of mortality.

The financial implications of severe sepsis are substantial. Severe sepsis costs an average of $22000 per patient, with a total cost to US hospitals of$16.7 billion. The cost of treating a patient in the ICU with severe sepsis is 6 times greater than the cost of treating a patient in the ICU who does not have sepsis.

The role of nurses in preventing the...