Experiences of work-related stress and coping among palliative care staff in South Africa: a qualitative study

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Palliative care staff are exposed to a plethora of work-related stressors that negatively affect their psychological well-being and work engagement. Using qualitative interviews, this study sought to explore the experiences of work-related stress and coping among a multidisciplinary group of 12 palliative care staff employed by a non-governmental hospice in South Africa. Data were analysed using the principles of thematic analysis. Four domains of stressors were implicated in the experience of work-related stress: stressors accruing from the nature of work and were specific to palliative care; stressors relating to working in the community; those deriving from certain encounters with patients and families; and organisational stressors. Broader structural factors pertinent to the socio-political and economic context in South Africa and the perception of palliative care were interwoven with the experience of work-related stress. Receiving social support from co-workers, professionals, and family and friends; accepting limits; setting work–life boundaries; relying on personal resources and reconstructing the hospice in positive ways were coping strategies deployed by staff to manage stress. Arguably much of the experience of work-related stress and coping among palliative care staff in South Africa is similar to that reported in resource-rich contexts. However, the particularities of the broader socio-political and economic environment and its subsequent impact on palliative care organisations appear to augment and expand work-related stress for these practitioners. Deployment of intra-individual and interpersonal coping resources could be supplemented with efforts to address structural factors contributing to the subjective experience of stress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth African Journal of Psychology
Early online date11 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Feb 2020


  • Coping
  • South Africa
  • palliative care staff
  • qualitative interviews
  • work-related stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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