Background Who depends on healthcare hopes for a professional and emphasizing nurse. The professional identity is defined as the nurse’s values and beliefs. Compassion is one of those values. The focus of the nurse in compassion, is the physical and emotional well-being of a patient, who is seen and treated as a whole human. Furthermore, the amount of older people who experience more complex syndromes is increasing which is a challenge for nurses. It is policy that nurses meet political and public expectations and also deliver compassionate care. Nevertheless, how nurses experience the significance of compassion developed in relation to their professional identity is unknown. Aim To gain insight into the significance of compassion in the development of the professional identity in graduating nursing students. Method A generic qualitative design with semi-structured interviews was conducted. Thirteen nursing students were interviewed. Data analysis consisted of the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven. Results Analysis resulted in five themes. Nursing students stated compassion was part of their professional identity. They were in search of a balance between professional nearness and distance. Nursing values helped nursing students to direct this balance. The importance of this balance is nursing student’s holistic approach in the relation to the patient, supported with compassion. To make time for this relation, a professional nurse who acknowledges the importance of compassion is required. Conclusion Compassion is part of the professional identity in which nursing students search for a balance between professional nearness and distance to become a compassionate nurse. Hereby, nursing students seem to meet patients’ needs requiring person-centred care using their nursing values for compassion. Implications Nursing students should be supported in their education to use their values in finding a balance between professional nearness and distance
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