Health care professionals generally assume that their perceptions and assessments of their patients' health status are accurate and are congruent with those of the patient and other health care providers However, despite the patient education process, there is evidence that discrepancies in perceptions persist These discrepancies are of particular concern to nurses because they may interfere with the provision of quality patient care Poor communication, non-compliance with the treatment regimen, inadequate or unnecessary treatment, and ethical problems could be outcomes of discrepancies in perceptions In this paper, the literature pertaining to discrepancies in health/illness perceptions is reviewed As well, several social factors that may affect perceptions are described These include cultural background, gender, socioeconomic status, experience and role The effect of occupational role on health/illness perceptions has not been examined systematically Regarding differences in perceptions of physicians, nurses and patients, further research is required to clarify and explain the nature of discrepancies in health/illness perceptions