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The present study examined occupational stress in four areas of high-dependency nursing: theatres, live/rend, haematology/oncology and elective surgery. A total of 60 nurses from one large NHS hospital completed questionnaires on sources and levels of stress, psychological well-being and ways of coping; interviews with a small sub-sample were carried out. The results indicated that the amount of stress experienced was similar across all four departments, but its sources varied. Theatre nurses experienced less stress through patients' death and dying. Other factors which influenced both the level and sources of stress included post-qualification training, number of children and partnership-status. Nurses with post-qualification training perceived higher levels of stress. Social support was found to influence psychological well-being. Nurses who were living with a partner or were married experienced fewer stress symptoms than those with no partner, and nurses with two children experienced significantly less stress through dealing with patients and relatives. Reactions to stress elicited a range of adaptive and maladaptive coping styles. Nurses sampled indicated universal support for the introduction of ‘nurse-for-a-day’ and management ‘swap-overs’ as practised in Boston, USA. This study recommends sending nurses on management and administration courses and stress-management programmes.