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Sections of the British nursing profession have recently become interested in the nursing process as a means of providing better patient care and increased job satisfaction for nurses. Bernstein's code theory is used in this article to analyse theoretically the change from a task-oriented to a patient-oriented mode of organization of nursing care, and to suggest hypotheses regarding the possible effects of the change. The new mode is analysed as a different and more pervasive form of social control of patients and nurses, and, although it appears to be a radical initiative, the fundamental power structure within which nursing care is given is shown to be unchanged. Whether patients will be more satisfied with their care and nurses will experience less stress in the new mode cannot be taken for granted; they are matters which call for empirical investigation.