This phenomenological study looks at the lived experience of third-year student nurses caring for dying patients in surgical, medical and elderly care units. Informal interviews were tape recorded and interpretive analysis was applied to narrative accounts of the nursing students’ experiences. Themes which emerged from the students’ narrative accounts included sudden death experience, vulnerability and support. These are evaluated in terms of their meaning for students and the possible implications for clinical care. In addition, the use of students’ narratives is also suggested as a valuable learning tool both within clinical and academic frameworks.