This paper presents the first phase of a four-phase collaborative action research study which aimed to facilitate family-focused nursing in the intensive care environment. The purpose of phase one was to determine intensive care nurses' perceptions of family-focused critical care nursing and the appropriateness of family-focused nursing in the intensive care unit. A collaborative action research group was established with six registered nurses working in the intensive care unit of a metropolitan tertiary referral hospital. Data were collected through group discussions and analysed using open coding. Findings revealed two categories related to perceptions of family-focused intensive care nursing: partnership in care and maintaining a balance. The group unanimously agreed that family-focused nursing was appropriate in the intensive care environment. The three subsequent action research phases of this study are reported elsewhere.