The research (undertaken to complete a Doctor of Education programme) problematises the Nursing and Midwifery Council's decision that as of 2013, the only route onto the UK Nursing register is through graduate programmes. It explores the surrounding discourses and primarily questions whether the new standards for nurse education are a form of social (re)engineering. It draws on the conceptual tools of Pierre Bourdieu (field of practice, habitus and capital) and on his three distinct levels of inquiry: the position of the field within other fields, mapping the objective structure of relations between positions occupied by those who occupy ‘legitimate’ forms of specific authority in the field, and by exploring the habitus (lived experience) of the agents. This was achieved by applying a layered approach of critical discourse analysis to the examination of policy and professional text and to the stories of nurses as accessed through the use of online methodologies. The data reveal a picture of nurses engaged in definitional struggles; their experiences being located between affiliations to both externally declared expectations of quality and changing role and their ‘understood’ position as bedside caregivers, with graduate status perceived as educating nurses away from the bedside as the nature of what is good (authentic) nursing practice changes.