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Keywords:

  • Occupational stress;
  • health care;
  • social services;
  • job strain

Abstract

This paper describes and compares the sources of job strain experienced by staff in different nursing and social work specialties, using measures developed to assess job quality in these occupations. Data come from a random sample of 285 women employed as protective (child abuse) social workers, psychiatric social workers, medical social workers and social workers working in social service agencies, in schools, with the elderly or as licensed practical nurses working in hospitals or nursing homes. These occupational specialties vary in their level of overload, decision authority, challenge and helping others. These variations are associated with variations by specialty in worker health. Specifically, protective social workers reported significantly greater job strain and significantly greater psychological distress. School, medical, psychiatric and social service social workers reported the best job conditions and significantly better physical health and lower levels of psychological distress.