We conducted a focused ethnography of a pediatric critical care unit to examine the role of nursing unit culture related to research utilization. Four significant aspects of the unit culture shaped nurses' research utilization. A hierarchical structure of authority, routinized and technology-driven work at the bedside, a workplace ethos that discouraged innovation, and an emphasis on clinical experience acted together to teach nurses both that they were to do as they were told and that they were not expected to use research. Nurses perceived that the behaviors expected of them were arbitrarily determined by physicians and managers in charge. Consequently, they were reluctant to step outside of routine and physician-ordered nursing care. This left little opportunity for research utilization.