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A number of research studies in nursing education have drawn on the concept of ‘role’ when defining differing aspects of both student nurse and nurse teacher experiences Despite the fairly wide use of the word, little attention has been given to the origins and development of the study of role Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to explore ‘role’ and to consider the implications of this concept when undertaking research into the work nurses do The subject will be explored from the perspective of nursing education and the role of the nurse teacher will be used as the working example in this paper