Collaborative research between educational institutions and health agencies is being increasingly used as a method of achieving joint outcomes and bringing together theory and practice. This paper reports on the experiences of collaboration that arose out of just such a project carried out in a residential aged care setting. The research team included university academics, two nurses in management positions in the aged care facility and a senior research assistant. In this paper, we explore some of the unexpected issues that emerged during implementation of the research project. The major challenges to successful collaboration arose not from within the collaborative research team, but from the responses of the broader staff who generally had little, if any, experience of research. Despite efforts to inform and involve staff, deep suspicions about the ‘real’ motives of the project proved difficult to shift. Trust and commitment are vital dimensions of successful collaborative research, yet gaining these from some staff proved elusive. Collaborative relationships between educational and practice settings need to be viewed as long-term endeavours driven by a common unifying goal to enhance client care. This has implications for costs and timelines which might be difficult to manage.