• problem-based learning;
  • critical pedagogy;
  • graduate nurses;
  • responsibility;
  • autonomy

Despite the increased attention that problem-based learning has received as an appropriate pedagogical technique for educating adults for professional practice, reports that evaluate the process are rare and usually relate to professions other than nursing. A study was undertaken in order to discover the graduates’ own perceptions of a problem-based learning programme and its effectiveness in preparing them for the reality of their chosen profession. Twelve practising graduate nurses who had completed the programme were interviewed according to the ethnographic method. Three categories were identified from the data: ‘and all of a sudden…’, which describes the transition from PBL student to staff nurse; ‘not an unthinking assistant’, where the characteristics that the PBL graduates believe make them different from traditionally trained nurses are described; and ‘the buck stops here’, which describes the sense of personal responsibility that the graduates experience in terms of their learning and actions.