Background: Although learning in clinical settings is a key element of nursing education, for many learners these are challenging developmental contexts often marked by isolation and a lack of belongingness. Despite the massive appropriation of mobile instant messaging (MIM) platforms and the connective properties attendant to them, very little is known about their role in and impact on nursing students' clinical learning experiences. Approach and methods: To address this gap, the study, which was part of a multinational research project on the use of mobile social media in health professions education in developing countries, examined the use of the instant messaging platform WhatsApp by nursing students during placements and potential associations with socio-professional indicators. The survey involved a total number of 196 nursing students from 5 schools in Oyo State, Nigeria. Results: The findings suggest that students used WhatsApp relatively frequently and they perceived that this platform strongly enhanced their communication with other students and nurses. WhatsApp use during placements was positively associated with students' maintained social capital with peer students, the development of a professional identity, placement satisfaction and with reduced feelings of isolation from professional communities. The determinants that influenced WhatsApp use during placements were perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. No associations were found between WhatsApp use during placement and age, attitude, subjective norms and placement duration. Conclusion: This study is one of the first of its kind that points to the relevance of mobile instant messaging as part of nursing students' (inter)personal learning environments in clinical settings and, particularly, in the development setting under investigation. Further research is needed to corroborate these findings, to enhance the understanding of the impact mechanisms, and to evaluate a more systematic use of MIM in clinical learning contexts.