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The survey study compared perceptions of work in the nursing staff of acute and long-term care hospitals. The focus was on professional challenges, career prospects, independence, responsibility, the social requirements of work, time pressure and workload. Consistent differences were found in the extent to which the two groups experienced their work as challenging: the scores were lower in the long-term care hospital than in the general hospital. For example, 40% of the respondents in the long-term hospital felt their work was too easy compared with their knowledge and skills, while the figure was only 9% in the general hospital. Among these workers, a simultaneous decline was found in personal resources, as measured by psychosomatic symptoms, and in the individual's commitment to the organization. In the theoretical discussion the experience of lacking challenges is related to the concepts of work orientation, coping strategies and work culture.