Several studies show that critical care nurses should pay attention to symptoms and subtle changes in the critically ill patient’s physical and psychological condition. At the same time the phenomenon of attention seems to have received little focus in the literature.

The aim of this article is to show the importance and challenges of being fully present when practising critical care.

This article will discuss factors which interfere with the process of paying attention, and will draw on selected theory (especially Martinsen and Molander), and other relevant literature together with empirical studies from the field of critical nursing.

The data used in this article is based on interviews of senior critical care nurses and literature review. The quality of attention is affected by the nurse’s presence and use of appropriate knowledge. It also depends on feedback from colleagues and the absence of “noise”.