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To examine the activities and concerns of critical care nurses and professional critical care nursing organizations around the world and to identify expectations held of nursing leaders and policy makers to help address their concerns.This study is the fourth worldwide review of its type. Previous surveys were undertaken in 2001, 2005 and 2009.An online descriptive survey was emailed to 88 potential participants from countries with critical care nursing organizations or known critical care nursing leaders. Responses were downloaded into Survey Monkey™ (Version 22) and analysed by geographical region and income level.Fifty-nine respondents from 58 countries completed the questionnaire, of whom 43 had critical care nursing organizations established in their countries and 29 were members of the World Federation of Critical Care Nurses. The services provided by the organizations to be of most value were national conferences, website, professional representation, and practice standards and guidelines. Professional policies had been developed by some organizations on workforce, education and practice, while almost half provided their members with either a newsletter or journal. Collectively, the most important issues for critical care nurses were working conditions, provision of formal practice guidelines and competencies, staffing levels and access to quality education programmes.Important issues continue to challenge the specialty of critical care nursing as new developments, priorities, clinical issues and other global events and influences impact critical care nursing worldwide.This study will help guide nursing leaders and policy makers to address the needs of critical care nurses and their patients. Collaborative approaches between the specialty, nursing leaders and health policy advisors will assist to inform appropriate change in areas recommended for further action.