Client teaching is recognised as an essential component of nursing and midwifery care, and all clinical areas provide opportunities for informal client teaching. This qualitative study aimed to explore registered nurses' professional practices with regard to teaching breast self-examination (BSE), and to identify factors that influenced their participation or non-participation in teaching about ... [Show full abstract] breast health. Participants' views were obtained using individual semi-structured interviews. The data were analysed inductively, that is, without imposing structure from the interview questions. Findings revealed that participants' perspectives of BSE and breast health, the dual symbolism of breasts, and the time constraints of clinical practice, were significant factors that impacted on participants' personal BSE practices and on their level of participation in teaching BSE. The results indicate that that nurses and midwives do not view teaching breast health as part of their role in client interaction, particularly in an acute care setting. Although nursing literature identifies midwives and nurses as ideally placed to promote health promotion activities, the image of BSE as linked to breast cancer, the dominant illness oriented model of care and a task orientated culture in health care facilities do not facilitate this.