The aim of this study was to report the results of a literature review of empirical studies on trust within the nurse-patient relationship. A search of electronic databases yielded 34 articles published between 1980 and 2011. Twenty-two studies used a qualitative design, and 12 studies used quantitative research methods. The context of most quantitative studies was nurse caring behaviours, whereas most qualitative studies focused on trust in the nurse-patient relationship. Most of the quantitative studies used a descriptive design, while qualitative methods included the phenomenological approach, grounded theory, ethnography and interpretive interactionism. Data collection was mainly by questionnaires or interviews. Evidence from this review suggests that the development of trust is a relational phenomenon, and a process, during which trust could be broken and re-established. Nurses' professional competencies and interpersonal caring attributes were important in developing trust; however, various factors may hinder the trusting relationship.