BACKGROUND: The Clinical Skills Laboratory has become an essential structure in nurse education and several benefits of its use have been identified. However, the literature identifies the need to examine the transferability of skills learned there into the reality of practice. OBJECTIVE: This research explored the role of the Clinical Skills Laboratory in preparing nursing students for the real world of practice. This paper focuses specifically on the perceptions of the teaching and assessment strategies employed there. DESIGN: Qualitative multiple case study design. SETTING: Five case study sites. PARTICIPANTS: Interviewees (n=58) included academic staff, clinical staff and nursing students. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews. RESULTS: The Clinical Skills Laboratory can provide a pathway to practice and its authenticity is significant. Teaching strategies need to incorporate communication as well as psychomotor skills. Including audio-visual recording into assessment strategies is beneficial. Effective relationships between education institutions and clinical settings are needed to enhance the transferability of the skills learned. CONCLUSIONS: The Clinical Skills Laboratory should provide an authentic learning environment, with the appropriate use of teaching strategies. It is crucial that effective links between educators and clinical staff are established and maintained.