The United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) has for many years sought to promote the development of research knowledge and skills in registered nurses and has based its efforts on a particular model of the professional practitioner. This model has each registered nurse as a competent finder, appraiser and utilizer of research evidence. It has a vision of all registered nurses acting as autonomous practitioners, able to adapt their practice according to their own expert assessment of current research findings. Through its powers of strategic direction of nurse training and education, the UKCC has required the national boards to have approved education institutions prepare nurses for this role at both pre- and post-registration level. In this paper we argue that this model has proven ineffective. Our argument suggests that the technical complexity of research, and the skills and time required to find and integrate research evidence, renders such a model unattainable. Evidence from studies of clinical nurses indicates that little progress has in any case been made. Furthermore, the development of the apparatus of clinical governance and the basis of professional accountability further undermine the grounds for this approach. A modified approach is advocated based on the development of research specialists within nursing and the greater use of research-based clinical guidelines.