Compassion is the most precious asset of nursing (Schantz, 2007; Rafferty, 2011), originating from theological traditions of caring for the sick (Shelly and Miller, 2006; Kapelli, 2008 a, b; Armstrong, 2007) and attributed to professional nursing through the influences of Florence Nightingale (Bingham, 1979; Dolan, Fitzpatrick and Herrman, 1983; Dingwall, Rafferty and Webster, 1988; Widerquist 1992). However, over recent times the notion of compassion has been questioned (Burdett Trust for Nursing, 2006; Mooney, 2009), due to an emerging range of individual reports of negative experiences in the care context (The Patients Association, 2009; The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry, 2010 a, b; The Parliamentary and Health Care Ombudsman, 2011; The Patients Association, 2011). Subsequently, a political and professional response has ensued to reaffirm that compassion continues to be a core philosophy of nursing (Department of Health (DH), 2010 a, b; Royal College of Nursing (RCN) 2010; DH, 2012). Despite this reaffirmation, there is limited empirical research across the international nursing arena to elucidate what compassion involves (Sanghavi, 2006; Perry, 2009; Dewar and Mackay, 2010; Van der Cingel, 2011; Kneafsey et al., 2016), particularly from the exclusive perceptions of individuals who have personal experience of nursing care (Skaff et al., 2003; Kret, 2011; Bramley and Matiti, 2014; Sinclair et al., 2016). A more comprehensive understanding is therefore required (Olshansky, 2007), in order to enable nurse educators to implement appropriate educational strategies which support nurses to embrace compassion as an integral dimension of contemporary professional practice.