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Increasingly, nurses throughout the western world are receiving their educational preparation for initial registration in a tertiary environment at either the diploma or bachelor degree level The length of time spent in the clinical setting has been reduced considerably, with the elimination of the apprenticeship system and the role of the student nurse as paid staff member Concurrently, the amount of technological equipment used in the health care sector is both increasing rapidly and now found in general wards, not just the traditional ‘high tech’ environments It is important to evaluate how well the tertiary experience prepares students in terms of their ability to handle common technological equipment such as infusion control devices or suction pumps In the study reported here 245 diploma-prepared registered nurses completed a questionnaire designed to assess how nurses from tertiary institutions perceived their ability to handle technical equipment in the workplace The majority of the respondents had been working for 7 to 12 months No significant relationship was found between the frequency of use of specific items of clinical equipment and whether that item caused the nurse concern in practice There was also no significant relationship between the frequency of use of an item and whether participants believed that competence should be acquired in relation to that item prior to tertiary graduation Although moderate levels of comfort in the use of technical equipment were reported upon entry to the workplace, subjects rapidly acquired high levels of comfort in relation to equipment handling The implications for hospital administrators and tertiary teaching programmes are discussed