Nursing education has shifted from the biomedical approach towards using a human scientific model. At the same time, the traditional role of nurses has changed towards professionalism owing to the development of nursing science. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine Finnish nursing students’ perceptions of nursing after 6, 18 and 30 months of education and at the end of the education programme. The sample consisted of 158 students selected by means of stratified sampling from six specialities in nursing. Data were collected with a questionnaire from 26 institutes. The summarized variables were based on factor analysis and analysed by one-way analysis of variance. The students had assimilated nursing as activity which promotes human health and well-being and is based on professionalism. The medical-technical model was not predominant at any phase of the education. The students of six specialities differed only slightly from each other. The students’ development was congruent with the aims outlined in the curriculum.