This author investigated these influences by use of a questionnaire. It was distributed to 90 second-year students and 89 staff nurses, working in three London hospitals. The tool was developed from a literature search, which looked at motivational theories, research into nurse retention and attitudes and interest in continuing education. No similar studies were found. An assumption was made that students are idealistic about their continuing education and staff nurses pragmatic. That is, the role change from student to staff nurse alters the perspective on career and continuing education needs. Eighty-one per cent of the questionnaires were returned. Results indicated that students decided their future training needs on how much they enjoyed a particular experience, and on their expectation of furthering their skills in that area; whereas staff nurses wanted management training and skills and knowledge in looking after critically ill patients. A number of respondents were considering leaving nursing, because of poor staffing and salary; this dissatisfaction was greatest amongst the staff nurse respondents. The investigation identified the need for commitment from both service and education to the concept of continuing education for nurses as crucial to improving patient care, and support and help for staff and students to assess their needs and be informed of choices and resources.