In the emergence of the evidence based practice movement, critical care nurses have struggled to identify scientific evidence on which to base their clinical practice. While the lack of critical care nursing research is a major concern, other important issues have significantly stalled the implementation of evidence even when it is available. A descriptive study of 274 critical care nurses was undertaken to examine nursing research activity in Victorian critical care units. The study aimed to identify critical care nurses' research skills, the barriers encountered in participation and implementation and the current availability of resources. Results revealed that 42 per cent of the nurses who participated in the study believed that they were not prepared adequately to evaluate research, and less than a third believed they were sufficiently skilled to conduct valid scientific studies. An association was found between nurses' ability to confidently perform research activities and higher academic qualifications. The study found that there is a lack of organisational support and management commitment for the development of evidence based nursing. In order to facilitate the implementation of evidence based practice, clinicians must be made aware of the available resources, be educated and mentored when carrying out and using clinical research, and be supported in professional initiatives that promote evidence based practice. It is argued that this will have positive implications for patient outcomes in the critical care environment.