Therapeutic recreation programs utilize leisure to maximize a person’s overall health and well-being. The focus of this study is a professional experience placement held within an outdoor recreation center involving student nurses and people with a lived experience of mental illness. The study aimed to explore student nurse’s beliefs about their practice within the program setting. An ethnographic case study approach was used to focus on the development of student nurse practice in this setting. The analytic strategy derived the themes of the ethnographic case study, namely ‘who’s who’, ‘clinical contrast’ and ‘recreation as practice’. A non-traditional mental health clinical placement would seem to have the potential in providing a new set of skills and experiences to these future nurses that may complement the scope of recovery-orientated care. The therapeutic recreation program provided the student with an experience where they could develop therapeutic relationships with people a lived experience of mental illness.