Background. Nursing care plans have been viewed as structured plans of action for patient care. Studies have investigated the outcomes or effectiveness of using different types of care plans, but have seldom reported nurses' perceptions of using care plans in daily practice. Aims and objectives. The purpose of this study was to explore nurses' experiences using a standardized care plan. Design. Nineteen clinical nurses at a teaching hospital in Taiwan were interviewed one-on-one and in depth from April to June 2000. Data analysis was based on Miles and Huberman's data reduction, data display, and a conclusion verification process to identify themes and concepts that represented nurses' experiences using a care plan. Results. The following themes emerged from the interview data: being reminded of care procedures, time-saving in making care plans, time-consuming in making shift reports, undesirable content design, and paperwork-oriented/not patient-centered. Conclusion. With the considerable amounts of money spent on education and training to meet nurses' needs, a careful examination of nurses' experiences in using care plans, should assist in care plan development and lead to observable effects on patient care. Relevance to clinical practice. Nursing documentation reflects nurses' observations, assessments, and interventions. It is expected that better use of standardized care plans will enhance nurses' access to appropriate and accurate information in decision-making, thus improving the charting process and care quality.