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Attacks by patients are acknowledged as an important source of stress for psychiatric staff which has ramifications for patients and the nurses’ employers as well Twenty-three psychiatric nurses and one doctor who had been assaulted by a patient at work were interviewed within 72 hours of the incident and twice more within 2 weeks The levels of strain they experienced and the amount of support provided for them in the time between interviews were measured and correlated Some subjects reported high levels of strain which persisted well beyond the incident Support was usually provided on an informal basis and was concentrated in the period immediately after the incident