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In this paper the constructs ‘stress’ and ‘coping’ as denned in an earlier paper (Clarke 1984) are used as a perspective for the interpretation of disease processes. The second half of the paper is devoted to an examination of the nurse's role which is seen as concerned with helping patients in the reduction or avoidance of stress and the strengthening of coping. General hospital nursing and district nursing is analysed in greater depth than other types of nursing.