Contemporary research in the aetiology, neuropsychology and epidemiology of schizophrenia is reviewed. The picture coming from this work is a group of brain diseases of neurodevelopmental origin which manifest themselves in a variety of ways. In turn, there are a range of cognitive deficits associated with the schizophrenias which may, in the extreme, produce major functional handicap. This new knowledge has obvious implications for nurse education and a priority is to place this in undergraduate programmes. However, more importantly, it is argued that we need to alter conceptual frameworks. for example, in some cases we should care for people with schizophrenia in the same way as one would care for an individual suffering the after-effects of a head injury. In the more severe forms of the illness we should take into account the probability that our patients may have significant problems of memory and attention, and thus modify interventions accordingly. It seems clear that our current nursing theories are not underpinned by relevant knowledge of the nature of schizophrenia and this problem warrants urgent attention.