High nursing workload, poor patient safety, and poor nursing quality of working life (QWL) are major issues in intensive care units (ICUs). Characteristics of the ICU and performance obstacles may contribute to these issues. The goal of this study was to comprehensively identify the performance obstacles perceived by ICU nurses. We used a qualitative research design and conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 ICU nurses of a medical-surgical ICU. Based on this qualitative study and a previously reported quantitative study, we identified seven main types of performance obstacles experienced by ICU nurses. Obstacles related to the physical environment (e.g., noise, amount of space), family relations (e.g., distractions caused by family, lack of time to spend with family), and equipment (e.g., unavailability, misplacement) were the most frequently experienced performance obstacles. The qualitative interview data provided rich information regarding the factors contributing to the performance obstacles. Overall, ICU nurses experience a variety of performance obstacles in their work on a daily basis. Future research is needed to understand the impact of performance obstacles on nursing workload, nursing QWL, and quality and safety of care.