Abstract The circumcision of males is a ritual that is performed in the veld, out of the public eye. Traditionally, it has to be attended by circumcised men only; no one is allowed to see the initiates before they are officially released or discharged. In recent times, initiates have been admitted to hospitals following complications during the circumcision process. In the hospitals, they are cared for by nurses. Hospitalisation of initiates creates problems for the elders who accompany the initiates as well as the nurses who are expected to care for them. The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the experiences of nurses who care for initiates who have been admitted into hospital with medical and physical complications. A qualitative approach was adopted for this study, and the data was collected by means of unstructured interviews. A purposively selected sample of nurses of different categories from a rural hospital in the Nkangala district in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, participated in the study. The data was analysed, and five major categories were developed. The major categories were: conflicting cultural practices, emotions, common complications, ethical issues and possible solutions. Based on the findings of the study, it is recommended that traditional circumcision should be regulated to avoid complications that lead to the admission of initiates into hospitals. Also, a collaborative partnership should be established between the health institutions and the traditional surgeons and healers in caring for initiates.