This review of recent literature explores the similarities and differences between the work of community psychiatric nurses and their mental handicap counterparts. The comparisons which have been made between groups of nurses are related to the authors own research studies. These included an observations study of one community mental handicap nursing team and a national survey of all such teams in England and Wales. The importance of trade union membership, the place of the Community Psychiatric Nursing Association and the implication of joint training courses are discussed. The emergence of a new professional role that of the ‘community mental health nurse’ is discussed and the implications which this might have for the future organization of community psychiatric nursing services is outlined.