The experiences of palliative care professionals and their responses to work-related stress: A qualitative study

Shaun Fisher, David Gillanders, Nuno Ferreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Previous qualitative research has demonstrated that palliative care professionals (PCPs) deal with a wide array of emotionally challenging issues associated with the care they provide. Although previous research has identified self-care strategies PCPs engage in, there is a lack of focus on what responses are helpful and/or unhelpful. The aim of the current study is to understand and describe the experiences of PCPs and to explore the helpful and unhelpful responses to work-related stress they employ. Design: This was a qualitative study of the experiences of working PCPs in a hospice setting. Methods: Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted and subsequently analysed using the framework method. Results: The current study revealed five overarching themes: (1) Sources of Meaning and Purpose (making a difference, personal growth), (2) Sources of Stress (emotional challenges, patient family dynamics, work environment factors, public perception, uncontrollability of symptoms), (3) Personal Impact (life engagement, perceptions of death), (4) Unhelpful Responses (self-doubt, emotional suppression, rumination, overidentifying, lack of self-care), and (5) Helpful Responses (acceptance, being present, perspective taking, being able to switch off, social support, active self-care). Conclusions: The experiences of PCPs can be interpreted from or directly mapped onto the psychological (in)flexibility model in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It is suggested that ACT training for professionals may encourage more reliable and explicit helpful responses and reduce the impact of unhelpful responses. Thus, an ACT training intervention may enhance wellbeing and effectiveness in PCPs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • burnout
  • coping
  • framework method
  • meaning and purpose
  • palliative care professionals
  • psychological flexibility
  • qualitative methods
  • stress
  • wellbeing


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