This study aimed to recognize the characteristics of work within the hospital context and their potential effects on mental health of professionals who provide health care for end-of-life patients. The descriptive and qualitative study relied on interviews and observations. Thirty-four physicians and nurses who work in clinical medicine or emergency medical services in a teaching hospital in Rio Grande do Sul were interviewed. The results, obtained through content analysis, showed that in clinical medicine health professionals suffer more when patients die or their condition gets worse, such suffering being a threat to mental health. In emergency medical services, death causes suffering only when it is traumatic. Intercurrences which are characteristic of emergency medical services and work organization are the major source of stress for such professionals, thus affecting their mental health. Therefore, the mental health of these professionals is weakened due to the demands in health care work. It is thus necessary to rethink the institution’s organization, redefine attitudes and implement procedures that are coherent with the professionals’ needs, in search of better working conditions and improved mental health.
Attitude towards death; healthcare staff; comprehensive health care; mental health