Internationally, nursing is challenged by recruitment and retention issues. On the one hand nursing is expanding and extending practice whilst on the other, lesser skilled workers are undertaking many roles which were previously fulfilled by nurses. This opinion paper contextualises the current debate and outlines many of the reasons that have been proffered for the apparent shortage. It then progresses to suggest strategies that may ensure nursing remains relevant to contemporary health care. Essentially a presentation of the authors' views, the intent of the paper is to generate debate.