The clinical features, microbiological characteristics, and outcomes of 163 episodes of bacteremia occurring at a long-term-care facility were evaluated. The rate of nosocomial bacteremia increased from 0.20 to 0.36 cases/1,000 patient-days from 1985 to 1989; there was a parallel increase in the rate of all nosocomial infections combined. Bacteremia was documented in 6.5% of all hospital-acquired infections. The majority of isolates were gram-negative, and Providencia stuartii was the most common gram-negative species. Staphylococcus aureus was the most frequent isolate; one-third of S. aureus strains were resistant to methicillin. Bacteremia was polymicrobial in 36 episodes (22%), 14 of which involved an enterococcal species. Portals of entry included the urinary tract (55%), the respiratory tract (11%), and soft tissue (9%). Overall mortality was 21.5%. Death was significantly associated with residence on the intermediate-care unit, the presence of a respiratory infection, a change in mental status, and relatively recent admission. Optimal management of bacterial infection in a long-term-care setting requires the availability of blood culture results. Initial decisions about antibiotic therapy should be made in light of the likelihood of infection with multiresistant organisms and of polymicrobial infection.