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A study was designed to examine the hypothesis that occupational stress in nurses is a function of how they perceive their work environment. Sixty-five nurses on four mixed-sex wards were interviewed using a nursing stress and work environment scale. Demographic data including age, sex and nursing status were also collected. ‘Work overload’ and the ‘death and dying’ of patients were identified as the major sources of stress for all the nurses. In general, although there was little difference between the specialized and non-specialized groups of nurses in the degree of stress experienced, the work environments were found to be dissimilar. The reported level of dissatisfaction with their work environment combined with certain demographic characteristics were found significantly to predict the degree of stress experienced. These findings have implications for the organization of the ward and for the skills taught to nurses by which stress may be managed or alleviated.