Abstract Purpose. The aim of the study was to examine the students perceptions of the long-term effectiveness of the English National Board (ENB) 870 course (Understanding and Application of Research). Method. Both quantitative and qualitative strategies examined four objectives focusing on: research utilisation, usefulness of the course in the “real world”, factors affecting research use and student support. A total sample comprised all 315 students from 1995 to 1998. Data were collected by postal questionnaires and by two focus group interviews. The responding sample of nurses, midwives and health visitors, all with a minimum of one years practice since completing the course totaled 145, achieving a response rate of 45%. Results. Evidence identified that practitioners were using research at a variety of levels to inform everyday practice. The skills developed in the course had transferred well to real life practice and a critical, confident, proactive approach within and across professional boundaries was demonstrated. A generally supportive culture was identified in the workplace but a lack of time and staff had prevented optimum utilisation of the new skills. A much more positive approach to research-based care was reported and many respondents stated that they had become more autonomous, accountable and better practitioners.