Work-related stress among healthcare personnel has already been investigated in detail in the western setting. However, community health work in India differs in its content from that in western countries. The purpose of this study was to characterise stressrelated factors, both causative and alleviating, among healthcare workers in the College of NursingCommunity Health (CONCH) project in Tamil Nadu, India. An ethnographic approach was employed, consisting of observation, interviews and available documentation related to the CONCH project. The study participants were women, and included 7 nurses and 2 nursing supervisors. Data were gathered over a period of 3 months in 2003. Causes of stress among healthcare workers included communication problems, environmental factors and a large workload. Prominent among the stressrelieving factors were support from friends, family and colleagues, supervisor–nurse interaction and aChristian outlook. Stress-related fear experienced by workers hindered innovation and weakened their opportunity to further develop healthcare. Challenging work environments, varying work descriptions and unclear boundaries between working hours and free time all contributed to a decline in motivation and to fatigue. The identification of stressrelated factors could play an important role in the facilitation of appropriate interventions. The results of this study suggest that wider studies employing, for example, quantitative methods may provide useful information.