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BACKGROUND: Teaching hospitals are medical institutes at which most nursing education institutions provide their students with practical nursing experience. Although the focus of care is the patient, attention is sometimes focused more on the nursing students rather than on the patients who are undergoing care at the hands of both the nursing professionals and students. However, proper nursing care should also take into account the experiences of patients during the care process in the health facility. OBJECTIVES: The study had three objectives: to describe the experiences of patients nursed by student nurses in a teaching hospital in the Western Cape; to identify patterns in the experiences of patients receiving patient care from student nurses; and to analyse aspects of the experiences that may need further attention for the training of student nurses. METHOD: A descriptive phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of patients nursed by student nurses. Participant selection took place purposively from different wards of the identified teaching hospital, and thematic saturation was achieved at 10 participants. The data were collected through in-depth interviews and analysed using thematic content analysis. RESULTS: Three main themes were discovered after data analysis: methods of identification of student nurses by patients; positive perceptions of student nurses by patients; and negative perceptions of student nurses by patients. CONCLUSION: The findings will inform the clinical supervisors and educational institutions of aspects of the nursing training of student nurses that need improvement and those that require enforcement.