Abstract In Canada, professional associations are mandating theory-based nursing as a standard of practice. Few systematic studies of nurses' attitudes toward, knowledge of, and exposure to theory-based nursing are in the literature. We used a convenience sample of nursing managers in a public health department to describe these aspects before and after an educational program, and to identify preferred ways of learning about nursing models. The managers had moderately positive attitudes toward theory-based nursing, which increased and were maintained six months after an educational program. Case studies and small group discussions were preferred over lectures and reading as methods of learning nursing theory. The significant increases in positive attitudes after the educational program suggest that knowledge and experience in applying nursing theory had an impact on the managers' attitudes. Managers identified a need to explore a variety of models before making a commitment to one. Leadership, commitment, and careful planning are required when the decision to introduce a model is made.