This study focuses on hospital sisters in 30 Dutch hospitals. The so-called role-set approach has been adopted. In this approach the sisters are the focal persons. Direct superiors, specialists, registered nurses and student nurses acted as role-senders. The possible number of respondents is 600 (120 of each group). The response of hospital sisters is 100%, that of role-senders 88%. The study started out as an attempt to collect background information on the causes of wastage of sisters. High wastage rates are generally regarded as an indication of an unfavourable working environment. Since hospital sisters occupy a key position in hospitals, the ward problems will be studied from their angle. Although wastage rates have dropped recently, it does not necessarily follow that the working environment has improved. Wastage is known to act as a safety valve, thus allowing tensions to resolve. The threat of unemployment clogs this outlet, which increases the tensions on the hospital ward. Data from the study show that work overload is one of the major stress factors for sisters. Analyses demonstrated that there exists a relationship between work overload and tensions with the management and direct superiors, tensions in job execution, irritableness on the ward, low self-esteem, health complaints and psychological condition. Sisters with an excessive job involvement refer to work overload more often than their moderate colleagues. There is a relationship between an unfavourable working environment and irritableness of sisters.