The emergence and spread of resistant organisms, in particular vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), is an issue facing all staff in acute hospitals. This study explored how nurses coped with the responsibility of halting further spread of this organism during an outbreak. VRE-positive patients were cohorted with nurses who cared for them in an endeavour to contain the spread of VRE. The majority of nurses found the situation extremely stressful because of the need to act as 'gatekeepers' responsible for educating and monitoring the practices of staff and visitors. The nurses reported that they felt they were inadequately supported, were blamed for the outbreak, and that they had an increased workload as they took on duties of other staff. The results reinforce the need for a multidisciplinary team approach to education and control of VRE, more support for nursing staff cohorted with VRE-positive patients, and stringent adherence to infection control measures by all hospital staff.