Aims and objectives: To investigate how fundamental aspects of nursing care have been defined in the literature from 2010–2016. Background: A 2010 narrative review of nursing texts identified little consensus on what constitutes the fundamental aspects of nursing care. Since then there has been a proliferation of policies, strategic frameworks and research teams dedicated to investigating such care. It is unclear whether this increased activity has led to greater conceptual clarity. Design: Scoping review using the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology. Methods: A search of published and grey literature was undertaken using CINAHL, Scopus, PubMed and ProQuest. Documents providing a definition for fundamental aspects of nursing care were included for review. Definitions were identified and mapped. Results: Forty-nine documents were included. Two ways of constructing the discourse around fundamental aspects of nursing care were identified: compassionate care (n = 25) and fundamentals of care (n = 24). The literature on compassionate care focused primarily on the moral attributes of nurses and their ability to establish meaningful connections with patients. The literature on fundamentals of care was split between describing such care as a list of nursing activities and describing it as a complex, multidimensional construct. Conclusions: There appears to be a lack of consensus around how fundamental aspects of nursing care are defined. Compassionate care and fundamentals of care have commonalities in terms of emphasising the nurse–patient relationship; however, only the literature on fundamentals of care addresses patients’ physical care needs. Despite their commonalities, it seems the two bodies of work are being developed largely independent of one another. Relevance to clinical practice: This scoping review identified areas of convergence and divergence around fundamental aspects of nursing care. An agreed definition for such care is needed to enable the development of a robust evidence base to underpin the coherent and consistent development of nursing practice.