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Meaning of work and personal protective factors among palliative care professionals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2019

Beatriz Moreno-Milan
Palliative Care Department, Fuenfria Hospital, Cercedilla, Madrid, Spain
Antonio Cano-Vindel
Faculty of Psychology ComplutenseUniversity of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Pedro Lopez-Dóriga
Department of Geriatrics, University Hospital of Getafe, Madrid, Spain
Leonardo Adrián Medrano
Faculty of Psychology, University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina
William Breitbart
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York
E-mail address:



Healthcare professionals who work in palliative care units face stressful life events on a daily basis, most notably death. For this reason, these professionals must be equipped with the necessary protective resources to help them cope with professional and personal burnout. Despite the well-recognized importance of the construct “meaning of work,” the role of this construct and its relationship with other variables is not well-understood. Our objective is to develop and evaluate a model that examines the mediating role of the meaning of work in a multidisciplinary group of palliative care professionals. Using this model, we sought to assess the relationships between meaning of work, perceived stress, personal protective factors (optimism, self-esteem, life satisfaction, personal growth, subjective vitality), and sociodemographic variables.


Professionals (n = 189) from a wide range of disciplines (physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, and chaplains) working in palliative care units at hospitals in Madrid and the Balearic Islands were recruited. Sociodemographic variables were collected and recorded. The following questionnaires were administered: Meaning of Work Questionnaire, Perceived Stress Questionnaire, Life Orientation Test-Revised, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Subjective Vitality Scale, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and the Personal Growth Scale.


The explanatory value of the model was high, explaining 49.5% of the variance of life satisfaction, 43% of subjective vitality, and 36% of personal growth. The main findings of this study were as follow: (1) meaning of work and perceived stress were negatively correlated; (2) optimism and self-esteem mediated the effect of stress on the meaning attached to work among palliative care professionals; (3) the meaning of work mediated the effect of stress on subjective vitality, personal growth, and life satisfaction; and (4) vitality and personal growth directly influenced life satisfaction.

Significance of results

The proposed model showed a high explanatory value for the meaning professionals give to their work and also for perceived stress, personal protective factors, and sociodemographic variables. Our findings could have highly relevant practical implications for designing programs to promote the psychological well-being of healthcare professionals.

Original Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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