Caring is the central and unifying domain for the body of knowledge and practices in nursing. It was the purpose of this ethnonursing study to describe caring in the residential training for long-term psychiatric patients in Finland in 1977-1988. Data were collected by interviewing 20 patients and 11 members of staff. On the basis of the empirical data, four stages of caring could be distinguished: formation, reformation, fragmentation and reintegration. The changes in caring occurred on the following dimensions: work for wages vs. vocation; spontaneous social interaction vs. the systematic instruction of practical skills; and collective activities vs. individual activities.