Defining what nurses do and why has been the endeavour of many researchers, both academic and clinical. Nursing interventions are a fundamental component of nursing practice and a focus on accountability means that nurses must be able to justify their actions. The sensoristrain experience of intensive care patients is widely acknowledged in nursing literature, though without the use of the word ‘sensoristrain’. The aim in this paper is to place patients, their experience and the role of nurses within the practical framework of a suitable nursing theory which will elucidate and guide everyday practice in preventing and alleviating the causes (stressors), symptoms (reactions) and emotional aftermath. Nursing interventions appropriate for the three modalities of intervention elucidated by the Neuman systems theory have been outlined, paralleled by a discussion of how these could relate to the three dimensions of nursing care: comfort care; knowing the patient; and the therapeutic presence of the nurse. Nurses must use each opportunity to advance practice through emphasizing the value of nursing in today's cost-conscious health care climate. In order to do this, and to ensure nurses' continued presence at the bedside, clear articulation of the contribution of nursing interventions to improved patient outcomes is essential.