Nurses who had just completed their training in Scotland were interviewed with regard to their experiences on placements. The nurses had either completed a traditional training course or came from the first cohort of the Project 2000 diploma level course. The interviews focused on the way in which the student nurses had learned in their practice placements. The results suggest that the placement is a complex social and cognitive experience in which there are elements of situated learning. Acceptance into the community of practice is important but this can be separated, conceptually at least, into a social acceptance which might be extended to any student and a professional acceptance which relies on the display of appropriate competence. The nurses described the way in which their mentors had interacted with them in terms which suggested that cognitive apprenticeship strategies had been used to further their learning in practice. It is concluded that, in view of the central importance of the placement for training nurses, explicit use of mentoring techniques derived from situated learning and cognitive apprenticeship might be beneficial.