AIM This study aims to describe how senior nursing students viewed the clinical learning environment and matured their professional identity through interprofessional learning in a student-led hospital 'ward'. BACKGROUND Undergraduate nursing and medical student teams participated in a trial of ward-based interprofessional clinical learning, managing patients over 2 weeks in a rehabilitation ward. METHODS Qualitative and quantitative program evaluation was conducted using exit student focus groups and a satisfaction survey. RESULTS Twenty-three nursing and medical students in three placement rounds provided positive feedback. Five main themes emerged describing their engagement in 'trying on' a professional role: 'experiencing independence and autonomy'; 'seeing clearly what nursing's all about'; 'altered images of other professions'; 'ways of communicating and collaborating' and 'becoming a functioning team'. CONCLUSIONS Ward-based interprofessional clinical placements offer senior students authentic ideal clinical experiences. We consider this essential learning for future interprofessional collaboration which should be included in senior nursing students' education.