Theory/practice issues have a long-standing history in nurse education, and are a chronic source of controversy to which there is no easy or perfect solution We have argued that it is the tension between theory and practice and research which can be usefully exploited in teaching and research Students need to be introduced to the debates surrounding the genesis and generation of nursing knowledge They need to gain an appreciation of what counts as nursing knowledge at different points in time and the politics which drive the legitimation of nursing theory and practice Such an approach has much to offer in helping students deal with reality shock and make sense of their experience as they confront the ambiguities, uncertainties and contradictions that characterize the stock-in-trade of professional life