BACKGROUND : Discussions on ethics of care are needed to shape the identity of nurses and nursing. In light of the discourses surrounding nursing and altruism, nurses should initiate research on altruism and nursing. AIM : The purpose of this literature review was to explore the meaning of altruism as a value in nursing. REVIEW METHODS : A hermeneutic approach, using a circular framework, was followed to search for literature, review and understand the text. RESULTS : The conceptualisation of altruism as a value in nursing care in this review strives to describe what altruism is; in what situations does it appear; for what purpose is it used; and how is it practiced. CONCLUSION : Altruism enables nurses to tolerate difficult situations and motivates them to sacrifice themselves and do what is best for the patient, especially when patients are compromised in their ability to care for themselves.