Objective The 'Essentials of Care' (EoC) program seeks to develop a shared vision amongst nurses within particular workplace teams. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of nurses during the process of exploring their values and developing these into a shared vision at both an individual level and as a team. Design A qualitative, focus group design was used to provide an accurate representation of the nurses experiences in reflecting on their values and developing these into individual ward/unit vision statements. Six focus groups were conducted by independent researchers. The focus group discussions were recorded and transcribed by an independent researcher. The transcription provided the data for thematic analysis. Setting This study was conducted in two tertiary hospitals from the same Local Health District in New South Wales, Australia. Subjects Forty-two nurses from fourteen hospital wards or units participated in the study. Seventeen were facilitators of the program and the remainder were nursing staff who had undertaken the program. Main outcome measures The authors independently interpreted the transcripts using inductive qualitative analysis, reaching consensus on emergent themes. Representative quotations were chosen for each theme. Results Six themes emerged which describe the experiences of nurses during the exploration of individual and team workplace values which were then developed into shared visions. The emergent themes were: shared values and commitment to patient care; empowerment and ownership for cultural change; real and observable outcomes; the meaning of the team; different active learning approaches equalling the same outcome; and culture change results in new perspectives. Conclusion This study supports the benefits of value-based programs. Exploring values led to new perspectives on clinical practice, both individually and collectively by the nursing teams.