The aim of this study was to explore the motivations of student nurses enrolled in nursing courses across a variety of Pacific Island countries. The image of nursing, the desire to help others, family and friends in the profession, personal experience, security, travel opportunities and flexibility have all been identified as motivators for people to enter nursing. To date, what motivates students in Pacific Island countries to enrol in a nursing course has not been investigated. An exploratory qualitative approach using focus group interviews with 152 nursing students was undertaken. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis, revealing four themes: (i) helping others; (ii) ‘making a difference for my people’; (iii) following in the footsteps of others; and (iv) financial and professional gain. In a time of health and nursing workforce shortages, developing a deeper understanding of what drives people can be used to improve recruitment strategies in the future.