Those responsible for the education of nurses are well aware of the need to reconcile the art and science of nursing so that future practitioners can be prepared to offer a humanistic and professional service to society One way to assist students in this integration is to provide them with opportunities for role modelling as a means of discovering the knowledge embedded in clinical practice A study of first-year undergraduate students undertaking a course which provides such opportunities in a number of practice settings was earned out to determine whether the observation of clinical role models does lead to knowledge discovery The study, which used a grounded theory approach, indicated that the major aspect of nursing uncovered by the students through observation of clinical role models was that of provision of direct care They articulated their values in relation to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ care and identified those attributes of nurses which they considered contributed to these care positions In addition, they were able to recognize creativity and flexibility in practitioners and to relate these attributes to the ability to provide individualized, context-specific care There was some uncovering of aspects of the nurse's role in maintaining their own professional competence, socializing neophytes into the profession and collaborating with the members of the multi-disciplinary health care team