The information gathered from an in-depth literature study on the competencies of newly qualified nurses, was used to compile questionnaires for investigating newly qualified nurses' (NQNs') competencies as perceived by senior professional nurses (SPNs) in the former areas of Venda, Gazankulu and Lebowa (forming part of the Northern Province of the RSA since April 1994). The total number of 396 SPNs, employed by the health authorities in these three areas during 1994, comprised the population for this study. Questionnaires were distributed to the total 396 SPNs and responses were received from 259 SPNs (implying a response rate of 65.4%). Application of stages of the nursing process (problem solving and clinical judgment), research, management and administration of a clinical unit, nursing ethics and critical care were perceived by the SPNs to be the central focus of NQNs' incompetency in all four clinical nursing units, namely community, psychiatric, midwifery, and general units. The findings provide nurse educators and curriculum developers with realistic input about the SPNs' expectations from NQNs in the real working situation. This information could assist in the delineation and refinement of the professional competencies expected of nurses trained in the comprehensive (R425) course.