Nurses are the closest healthcare providers to patients and emotional labor is the most invisible part of nursing work. However, the management of emotions to promote organizational goals and to ensure patient satisfaction may have both positive and negative impacts on nurses' working life. The purpose of this cross-sectional, descriptive study was to examine the emotional labor behaviors of nurses and their opinions on emotional labor. Two hundred nineteen nurses working at public hospitals in Ankara between September and December 2018 participated to this study. Data were collected using the sociodemographic characteristics form and "The Scale of Emotional Labor Behavior for Nurses." Nurses had higher scores on the deep and sincere emotional acting subdimensions of the emotional labor scale than the surface acting subdimension. Findings suggest that nurses act deeply and intimately, instead of surface acting. Most of the nurses expressed that nurses were emotionally affected when caring for patients; however, nurses had to control their feelings toward patients and behave professionally to meet the expectations of their managers, which may lead to an implicit emotional dissonance. Based on the results of this study, we suggest to support nurses emotionally and to incorporate the topic of emotional labor into educational programs. © 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.