Self-help groups are lay, mutual support groups in which people who share some long-term existential problems in their lives meet regularly to support each other empathetically These groups can be viewed as supplementary sources of support outside patients’ existing social networks As such, it is of importance to be aware of them when planning nursing care The aim of this study was to examine cardiac nurses’ preparedness to use self-help groups as a support strategy A qualitative research method was used and 12 registered nurses from two coronary care units were interviewed The findings showed that nurses’ knowledge of social support, self-help groups and of patients’ social circumstances as well as their attitudes to their own roles as nurses were of importance in their preparedness to use self-help groups as a support strategy Lack of knowledge of social support and self-help groups affected the nurses attitudes towards lay care and was probably the reason for not using self-help groups as a support strategy Most of the nurses were well informed about their patients’ social circumstances, they had an explicit family nursing approach and were not at all against further expansion of their nursing role However, there is a need for education in innovative ways of working that respond to and interact with informal support networks if nurses are to be able to contribute to empowerment of their patients