Considerable debate has taken place about the form and function of “nursing” in dementia and aged care. This discussion usually comes with an assumption that nurse equals compassionate people who provide quality clinical care and are excellent managers. But do these skills and qualities go together and can we expect all aged care nurses to provide this? Is the word nurse being used to shorthand the care, compassion and knowledge we want in the support of older citizens and is less about the discipline of nursing? With the number of nurses decreasing internationally what is the future role of nursing in dementia care, where is nursing knowledge and skill most valuable. When does a person with dementia need the skills of a nurse and when do they need a person?