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A qualitative study of student nurses’ images of nursing revealed that features related to death were prominent in both entry and experience-mediated images These features appeared in entry images as part of‘the bad’ of nursing and were affirmed in this respect through experience However, mediated through students’ encounters with reality, death-related experiences also acquired characteristics of‘the good’ The‘involvement’ entailed in caring for the dying represented a poignant but emotionally draining aspect of students’ clinical experiences Regardless of the degree of accuracy of students’ entry images, the‘knowing’ that came through experience made adjusting to death-related encounters a particular challenge for students A clear implication was the need for effective guidance and support to be provided by the system and by individual members of teaching and clinical staff