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The author sets out to define what is meant by continuing professional education, the implications of the terminology and the contribution that it makes to nursing She then moves on to discuss the distinction between education and learning, and the importance of ‘life-long learning’ to nursing The relative merits of voluntary and compulsory education are considered and the attitudes and expectations of both nurses and their managers are examined. Obstacles to the up-take of educational opportunities are outlined, and some of the issues behind this are explored The assessment of educational requirements and the evaluation of educational offerings are reviewed, along with the importance of assuring quality, not only in the context of proposals for post-registration education and the current market ethos in the United Kingdom, but also with regard to the potential benefits to be gained in the health care of the general public