BACKGROUND: Stress-related outcomes of job satisfaction and absenteeism among nurses should receive more attention in Hong Kong because absenteeism is costly. Many nurses' complaints are due to organizational change in privatization since the establishment of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority in 1991. Organizational climate is found to be an antecedent of job dissatisfaction and absenteeism in many studies in western societies. AIM: To investigate the role of organizational climate and psychological distress on job satisfaction; and the role of climate, distress and job satisfaction on absenteeism in Hong Kong nurses, while controlling for demographic variables. METHODS: A self-administered questionnaire survey method was used to collect data from two samples of nurses within a 8-month period. They are, respectively, 144 (74 general nurses, 70 psychiatric nurses; 47 males, 97 females) and 114 (85 general nurses, 29 psychiatric nurses; 17 males, 97 females) nurses. RESULTS: Multiple regression analyses revealed that occupational type (psychiatric/general), environment (the physical conditions in the work area) and psychological distress were significant predictors of job satisfaction for sample 1; and well-being (social relations, welfare and health issues) was the only significant predictor of job satisfaction for sample 2. However, age, involvement (the degree of commitment displayed towards employees by the organization), psychological distress and job satisfaction were significant predictors of absenteeism for sample 1; and occupational type, organization (the interaction between the worker and the organization), and involvement were significant predictors of absenteeism for sample 2. CONCLUSIONS: The empirical findings provide support for the climate-job satisfaction and climate-absenteeism relationships. Psychological distress could be an antecedent of job satisfaction; and job satisfaction could be an antecedent of absenteeism. Certain climate dimensions should be improved to enhance job satisfaction and reduce distress, which in turn will reduce absenteeism.