This paper considers the present position of British nurse education on seven continua. The most critical parameter is the contractual position of the learner, and the real or assumed position on this continuum affects the position on several other continua. It is argued that there is no possible midpoint between the extreme positions of student and employee and the false assumption that such a mid-point is possible has influenced and still influences much of the thinking about nurse education.
The changes which would follow full acceptance of the learner as employee are discussed and a specific theory of learning described. It is argued that if this theory were used, nurse education in the present real service context would be considerably more effective.
The paper was read on 5 November 1976 as The Second Battersea Memorial Lecture.