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The relationship between theory and practice has received considerable attention within the nursing literature This paper uses qualitative data from debriefing interviews with nurses following episodes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to illustrate the complexities of translating sanitized theory into the messiness of practice The interplay of affect and cognition on both learning from experience and on professional practice are explored The feelings engendered by the CPR event and the labour required for their management form the second and major part of the paper These are explored by examining the realities of a CPR event with its accompanying threat of death success and failure, dignity versus indignity and the place of appropriate emotions throughout