This quasi-experimental study was carried out to compare the attitudes towards psychiatry patients of students educated with problem-based learning and students educated with a traditional method in western Turkey. The students' perceptions of psychiatric nursing and their career choices were also evaluated. The sample consisted of 202 students; 130 were educated with a problem-based learning model and 72 were educated with a traditional method. Students educated with the problem-based learning method developed more positive attitudes towards mental illness after the psychiatric nursing course in comparison with students educated with the traditional method. Students educated with the traditional method preferred psychiatric nursing in comparison with nursing students educated with problem-based learning. It is important that the psychiatric nursing curriculum includes topics and programs that will create awareness in students regarding stigmatization of mental illness and its effects. In addition, we suggest that studies are performed to determine the perceptions of students towards psychiatric nursing and the factors that affect their career choices. (C) 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.