Background: Understanding nosocomial pathogen transmission is restricted by culture limitations. Novel platforms, such as PCR-based electron spray ionization-time-of-flight-mass spectrometry (ESI-TOF-MS), may be useful as investigational tools.Methods: Traditional clinical microbiology (TCM) and PCR/ESI-TOF-MS were used to recover and detect microorganisms from the hands and personal protective equipment of 10 burn intensive care unit (ICU) healthcare workers providing clinical care at a tertiary care military referral hospital. High-use environmental surfaces were assessed in 9 burn ICU and 10 orthopedic patient rooms. Clinical cultures during the study period were reviewed for pathogen comparison with investigational molecular diagnostic methods.Results: From 158 samples, 142 organisms were identified by TCM and 718 by PCR/ESI-TOF-MS. The molecular diagnostic method detected more organisms (4.5 ± 2.1 vs. 0.9 ± 0.8, p < 0.01) from 99% vs. 67% of samples (p < 0.01). TCM detected S. aureus in 13 samples vs. 21 by PCR/ESI-TOF-MS. Gram-negative organisms were less commonly identified than gram-positive by both methods; especially by TCM. Among all detected bacterial species, similar percentages were typical nosocomial pathogens (18-19%) for TCM vs. PCR/ESI-TOF-MS. PCR/ESI-TOF-MS also detected mecA in 112 samples, vanA in 13, and KPC-3 in 2. MecA was associated (p < 0.01) with codetection of coagulase negative staphylococci but not S. aureus. No vanA was codetected with enterococci; one KPC-3 was detected without Klebsiella spp.Conclusions: In this pilot study, PCR/ESI-TOF-MS detected more organisms, especially gram-negatives, compared to TCM, but the current assay format is limited by the number of antibiotic resistance determinants it covers. Further large-scale assessments of PCR/ESI-TOF-MS for hospital surveillance are warranted.