Endotracheal suctioning is a frequently performed procedure that has many associated risks and complications. It is imperative that nurses are aware of these risks and are able to practise according to current research recommendations. This study was designed to examine to what extent intensive care nurses' knowledge and practice of endotracheal suctioning is based on research evidence, to investigate the relationships between knowledge and practice, and to evaluate the effectiveness of a research-based teaching programme. This quasi-experimental study was a randomized, controlled, single-blinded comparison of two research-based teaching programmes, with 16 intensive care nurses, using non-participant observation and a self-report questionnaire. Initial baseline data revealed a low level of knowledge for many participants, which was also reflected in practice, as suctioning was performed against many of the research recommendations. Following teaching, significant improvements were seen in both knowledge and practice. Four weeks later these differences were generally sustained, and provide evidence of the effectiveness of the educational intervention. The study raised concern about all aspects of endotracheal suctioning and highlighted the need for changes in nursing practice, with clinical guidelines and focused practice-based education.