The term ‘health literacy’ usually refers to the comprehension by patients of prescriptions and other health documents presented to them. Literacy among health staff has received less attention, in spite of the impact it may have on effective treatment, especially in multilingual situations such as Zambia where much official health information is in English. This article describes an investigation of the literacy levels of three groups of Zambian nurses: Enrolled Nurses (two-year trained), Registered Nurses (three-year trained) and student Registered Nurses (post-initial training). Two measures of literacy were used, a test of general comprehension and a questionnaire for health literacy. The English literacy of most nurses studied was adequate. Student Nurses did best on general comprehension, Registered Nurses on health literacy. The article attempts to explain these results and concludes that English literacy training should continue to be a priority, especially for Enrolled Nurses, through the whole of a nurse's career, given that medical texts and training materials, which are required reading, are only available in English and not in the languages used for communication with patients.