This study explores mental health nurses' and psychiatrists' perceptions of their work. It was carried out in five mental health Trusts in the West Midlands, UK. Three groups were surveyed: psychiatrists, hospital-based nurses and community mental health nurses (CMHNs). Results showed that CMHNs' sources of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction were more similar to those of psychiatrists than to those of their hospital-based counterparts. All three groups cited the intrinsic worthwhileness of their work, autonomy, the scope for creativity, the variety their job offered and their contact with clients as contributing to their overall job satisfaction. Hospital-based nurses listed the support they received from colleagues as their second source of job satisfaction, whereas CMHNs and psychiatrists cited the provision of care to patients. Excessive administrative duties and the absence of or poor quality of management were perceived by all three groups as sources for dissatisfaction with their work. Hospital nurses cited job insecurity as a principal concern more frequently than CMHNs and psychiatrists. The paper concludes by discussing recommendations for changes to improve the nature of the work in mental health services and in the work environment. Changes must reflect the concerns of the different groups of mental health professionals.