Debate continues with respect to when to introduce interprofessional education for maximal potential benefit. One perspective is that interprofessional education should be introduced early in the undergraduate curriculum before students develop stereotyped impressions of other professional groups. However, it may be that students at entry to medical school have already developed these stereotypical impressions. This study examines perceived professional characteristics of doctors and nurses by students entering medical school. Year 1 medical students in 4 consecutive years completed a questionnaire on their perceptions of the characteristics and backgrounds of nurses and doctors and on their attitudes to shared teaching. Year 1 medical students were found to perceive the characteristics of doctors and nurses differently. They considered nurses to be more caring and doctors to be more arrogant. They considered nurses to have lower academic ability, competence and status, although comparable life experience. They were generally very positive about beginning shared learning at an early stage of training. Whilst it is encouraging that medical students are positive about shared teaching, it is of concern that they have a poor perception of the academic ability, status in society and professional competence of the nurse at entry to medical school. These perceived impressions, which may reflect societal misconceptions regarding the roles and responsibilities of nurses within a modern health care system, may have an impact on the success of early interprofessional teaching initiatives in undergraduate curricula.