objectives: to understand the conceptions and experiences of nurses about quality of life and quality of work life in primary health care. methods: a descriptive study using a qualitative approach, conducted in s？o paulo state (brazil), with eight nurses whose interviews were submitted to content analysis of a thematic manner. results: the nurses presented expanded conceptions about quality of life and quality of work life, in general, showing that they were satisfied regarding these. however, barriers were identified that compromised the quality of life of the professionals studied in the context determined primarily by the lack / inadequacy of material, human and environmental resources, as well as the established work process. conclusion: although there is a recognition of satisfaction in working in primary health care, the problems highlighted reveal the importance of mobilizing greater attention of professionals and managers to the theme.