Nurses, like other groups throughout history, have been described as an oppressed group. Writers who describe nurses as lacking in self-esteem, autonomy, accountability and power support this view in the literature. Indeed the cultural narration of nursing is for nurses to be subordinate. This article explores the emergence of horizontal violence within nursing and suggests that it is a result of unexpressed conflict within an oppressed group. The author aims to raise the awareness of horizontal violence in nursing so that practitioners come to understand how this in itself can be an expression of power. Drawing upon theories of reflective practice, the article examines how the educational system in nursing may have contributed to the felt oppression within the group by colluding with the cultural narrative. The crosscurrents of cultural narration are strong and it is argued here that the nurse needs to feel empowered in order to take action to swim against the tide. The author proposes that a model of transformatory learning based upon critical theory creates the possibility of emancipatory action in nursing, both locally and globally.