Background Kidney transplantation has been recognized as the best renal replacement therapy option for people with end stage renal disease. With an estimated 170,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant around the world and a limited supply of donor organs, the waiting time is often prolonged for many years. Objectives The aim of this review was to examine the existing evidence of patients' experiences of living on dialysis and waiting for a renal transplant from a deceased donor. Search strategy The search strategy aimed to find both published and unpublished studies through electronic databases, reference list searches and the World Wide Web. Extensive searches were undertaken of the CINAHL, Embase, Medline and PsychInfo databases of published literature, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library, OpenGrey and the New York Academy of Medicine databases of unpublished literature. Methodological quality Each study was assessed for methodological quality by two independent reviewers using the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument checklist. Disagreements between the reviewers were resolved through discussion or with a third reviewer. Results A total of 12 studies were included in the final review. Thirty-seven findings from the 12 studies were extracted and aggregated into 11 categories and then into three synthesized findings. The three synthesized findings were: People who are waiting for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor are affected by the experience of living on dialysis with end stage renal disease and its impact on their physical health and normal activities of living. The experience of waiting for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor impacts a person's psychological wellbeing People who are waiting for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor place value on relationships and being part of a community. The experience of waiting for a renal transplant from a deceased donor while living on dialysis with end stage renal disease changes a person's relationships. Conclusions Synthesized findings of the review conclude that people who are waiting for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor live with the physical effects of a life limiting chronic illness and dialysis therapy. Waiting for a kidney transplant is psychologically challenging. People waiting for a kidney transplant value knowledge, although the information they require to alleviate the uncertainty they feel is not available. The dynamics of relationships with family and friends are affected by the experience of waiting for a kidney transplant. People can feel isolated from others leading a 'normal' life, while new relationships are developed within the medical team and community of dialysis patients.