AIM AND BACKGROUND: Globally, nursing workforce shortages are a hot topic for discussion among politicians, academics and clinicians. This paper uses collective action framing to analyse the literature about the problem of workforce for Australian rural nurses. EVALUATION: As part of a larger constructivist grounded theory study, we utilize collective action framing to bridge social world mapping and the literature. Data sources included journal databases, newspapers, newsletters and websites. We limited the years searched from 2000 to 2005. This analytical heuristic categorizes text into three main categories: diagnoses of a problem, postulations of solutions and actions to motivate change. KEY ISSUES: Having mapped the social world of Australian rural nurses as comprising four groups of collective actors - community, advocates, academics and government - we trace the texts that they have produced with a focus on mentoring as a potential solution to the problem of workforce. CONCLUSIONS: Mentoring entered the literature about the problem of workforce for Australian rural nurses because of a combination of political and academic will. These collective groups are now changing how they are framing the problem of workforce to focus instead on the globalization of nursing workforce shortages, which is resulting in diminished support for mentoring activities in clinical practice.