Aim: To explore the perceptions of surgical patients about traditional and novel methods to learn about post-operative pain management.Background: Patient education is an important part of post-operative care. Contemporary technology offers new ways for patients to learn about self-care, although face-to-face discussions and brochures are the most common methods of delivering education in nursing practice.Design: A qualitative design with a vignette and semi-structured interviews used for data collection.Methods: A purposeful sample of 13 post-surgical patients, who had been discharged from hospital, was recruited during 2013 - 2014. The patients were given a vignette about anticipated hospital discharge after surgery with four different options for communication (face-to-face, brochure, website, serious game) to learn about post-operative pain management. They were asked to rank their preferred method of learning and thereafter to reflect on their choices. Data were analysed using an inductive content analysis approach.Findings: Patients preferred face-to-face education with a nurse, followed by brochures and websites, while games were least preferred. Two categories, each with two sub-categories, emerged from the data. These conceptualised the factors affecting patients' perceptions: 1) 'Trusting the source', sub-categorised into 'Being familiar with the method' and 'Having own prejudgments'; and 2) 'Being motivated to learn' sub-categorised into 'Managing an impaired cognition' and 'Aspiring for increased knowledge'.Conclusion: In order to implement successfully novel educational methods into post-operative care, healthcare professionals need to be aware of the factors influencing patients' perceptions abouthow to learn, such as trust and motivation.