Bringing together sociological theories and nursing practice this text develops a dynamic conceptualisation of the nursing role which is rooted in the work setting. It looks at the factors which have shaped nursing work in the past and those which are likely to shape it in the future. Nurses' work is changing in two respects: the place nursing occupies in the health care division of labour and the routine shifting of work boundaries that nurses experience in their daily work. Drawing on her detailed observations of the reality of nursing work in a district general hospital, Davina Allen explores these linked themes, focussing on five key work boundaries: *nurse:doctor *nurse:manager *nurse:support worker *nurse:patient *nurse:nurse The text provides new insight into many of the tensions and dilemmas nurses routinely face and the processes and constraints through which their work is fashioned. It offers a new way of thinking about the nursing role which is particularly relevant at a time when the scope of nursing practice is expanding and when the integrated approach to health and social care is seen as the key to provision and improved services.