Developing caring competences is considered to be one of the most important aims of undergraduate nursing education and the role of clinical placement is recognised as special in this regard. Students' reflection on caring, their experience and obstacles in being caring is recommended as a key strategy in the process of teaching and studying the nursing discipline. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe the concept of caring, its manifestations and possible obstacles while caring, as perceived by first‐year nursing students before and after their first clinical placement. Qualitative content analysis of 15 Polish students' narratives written before and after their clinical experience in the form of text‐diaries was undertaken. The findings revealed that students entered their nursing education with a deep humanistic vision of caring both on theoretical and practical levels and the first clinical placement has enriched this vision. Expressive caring was more appreciated by students than the instrumental one and their concept of caring was coherent with the caring behaviours as described in their narratives. Several internal and external obstacles for caring have been reported by students, indicating a specific tension between their ideal of caring and their practical experience of caring in the clinical reality.