Workplace Stressors: A Survey of Palliative Care Nurses in Australia

Dr Louise Peters, Dr Susan Lee, Professor Margaret O’Connor

  • Abstract

    Background: Working with terminally ill patients places palliative care and hospice nurses at risk of chronic stress, mental health problems and burnout. Aim: This study investigated the source and level of workplace stress experienced by palliative care nurses in Australia. Methods: Seventy-one palliative care nurses completed a self-report questionnaire based on the Nurse Stress Index and the Nursing Stress Scale. Information was collected about aspects of work-related stress and level of stress. Results: While the overall level of participants’ stress was low, older participants experienced significantly less stress than younger participants. More than 50% of participants experienced 48 of the 53 stressors. The main sources of stress related to ‘death and dying’, ‘workload’ and ‘dealing with patients and relatives’. The two stressors experienced by all participants were ‘watching a patient suffer’ and ‘dealing with patient and family conflict’. Conclusions: These findings have implications for managers, educators and policymakers in relation to adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, education for staff and an evaluation of how palliative care nurses are supported in the workplace. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Contributors

    Dr Louise Peters, Dr Susan Lee, Professor Margaret O’Connor


    Correct at article publish date

    Dr Louise Peters is Research Fellow, Dr Susan Lee is Senior Lecturer, and Professor Margaret O’Connor is Vivian Bullwinkel Chair in Palliative Care Nursing, Palliative Care Research Team, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, Peninsula Campus, Frankston, Victoria. Email:

    Original publishing information

    • Publisher: St Christopher's Hospice
    • Publish date: 01/01/2013
    • Volume: 3
    • Issue: 1

    Permissions: © 2015, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

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