A study of staff stress and job satisfaction was undertaken in a children's hospice. In addition factors were investigated which might be stressful or which helped staff to manage in difficult circumstances. Three quarters were under comparatively little stress and in general showed very few psychological symptoms but a distinct subgroup were under a great deal of stress. A number of factors, notably recent personal bereavement and unresolved grief about a death that had occurred before they came to work at the hospice, distinguished this small group. Job satisfaction was generally high. The main sources of stress were: the sense of impotence staff felt when they were unable to relieve perceived needs or distress; dealing with negative responses in families, and conflicts within the staff group. The most important mitigating factors were: the informal support that staff provided for each other in this small cohesive working unit, the homelike atmosphere of the hospice, and the diversity of professional and personal skills among the staff group. The implications of these findings for reducing stress among staff dealing with dying people are discussed; this includes not only staff on paediatric wards, intensive care and neonatal units, but also community paediatric nurses.
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