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Psychomotor skill-learning is a basic aspect of nursing education. Students are expected to perform skills in relation to patient care. How can nursing instructors optimize skill learning and how can they analyse where a student is going wrong? The critical components of the psychomotor-skill learning process are identified and listed under the control of the instructor or the student. A checklist provides for mutual examination of the process to see if a problem area can be isolated. The article provides a review of a process which tends to become second nature to experienced nurses, but it remains one of which nursing instructors must be conscious, in order to understand why some students do not learn nursing skills easily or safely.