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This paper describes a study which aimed to explore the present and ideal role of the nurse teacher in the clinical area from the perspective of nurse teachers, ward sisters/charge nurses, staff nurses and students nurses undertaking the ‘traditional’ and Project 2000 programmes of training The study adopted a qualitative design Findings from this study demonstrate that the clinical role of the nurse teacher lacks clarity, however, clear criteria emerged as to how trained nurses and student nurses perceived the ideal role Nurse teachers ‘role in assuring the quality of the clinical learning environment emerged as a major area of criticism It was suggested that, if nurse teachers adopted a clinical role that was primarily concerned with supporting clinically based nurses in their teaching role, this served to assure the quality of students’ clinical learning experience In conclusion, it is suggested that for nurse teachers to meet the needs of trained nurses and student nurses in the clinical area, the role must be diverse and flexible Attempts to prescribe a unimodel approach to deliver the service should be avoided Rather, the role must be negotiated between teachers, clinical nurses and students, and constructed in a way that best meets the needs of all parties concerned