This paper describes public health nurses' perceptions of changes in their practice. The participants were 28 public health staff nurses from six Alberta, Canada health units serving urban and rural populations. Data were collected in 1993-94 using individual and focus group interviews. Content analysis was used to identify the following themes: "pulling back", "from hands on to arms length", "handing over responsibility", "developing working partnerships", and "doing less surveillance". These themes are discussed in terms of their implications for population health and for public heath nursing, using as a point of reference the principles of Primary Health Care. Continuing research is needed to chronicle further changes in public health nursing practice that will result from health care restructuring and health system reform.