OBJECTIVE This paper investigates the culture of workplace learning within a study of eight small hospitals in rural New South Wales (NSW), Australia. DESIGN The study used a focus group method of data collection, undertaken before then after a series of interventions designed to nurture a culture that supports learning within the rural health care setting. PARTICIPANTS Student AINs, AINs, ENs and RNs from any of the eight hospitals. CONCLUSION Framed within a critical social perspective it applies a theory of culture to understand the determinants of social divisiveness that was occurring between different levels of the nursing workforce. These results are further analysed within a theoretical discussion of culture and power in nursing.